Second Thoughts on First Contacts in the American Southwest

Author(s): Matt Liebmann

Year: 2018


The enigmatic first contacts between the Zuni people and Esteban Dorantes, an enslaved Moor, has provided fodder for historical and anthropological speculation for more than 475 years. Conjecture regarding what really happened between Esteban and the Zuni began within a few days of this initial encounter in 1539, and continues down to the present day. Despite centuries of debate, supposition, and guesswork based on scanty historical records, archaeological evidence has yet to be brought to bear on these events. This paper examines what the discipline of archaeology might bring to the study of first contacts throughout the Spanish Empire, comparing the events that occurred at Zuni in 1539 with first contact narratives from the Caribbean and Southeastern North America. It also investigates the implications of First Contact narratives for notions of cultural persistence and contemporary Native American identity in the 21st century.

Cite this Record

Second Thoughts on First Contacts in the American Southwest. Matt Liebmann. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443587)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -123.97; min lat: 37.996 ; max long: -101.997; max lat: 46.134 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20395