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First Florida encounters and early Spanish explorations

Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

Florida has the longest history in the United States and it is a fascinating tale that began very soon after Christopher Columbus’s first settlement on the island of Hispaniola and the Spanish explorations of their “New World.”

The Spanish had a long and difficult path of first encounters with Florida and its native people beginning in the early fifteen hundreds. So, what was the approach of the Spanish to the New World? To Florida? What did they want? How did they view the natives of this land?

You will be surprised at the answers to these and other questions as we follow the trails of the early Spanish explorations and settlement attempts left behind for archaeologists and historians to unearth from the ground and archives.

For example, we know that the Spanish approach initially was to conquer the new land that would be named La Florida. The most telling indication of the Spanish presence is early metal artifacts, such as horseshoes, nails, and their swords.

But, over the course of 250 years, the evidence clearly reflects a blending of cultures into what would become American.

Unearthing Florida is a project of WUWF Public Media, the Florida Public Archaeology Network(FPAN), and its founder, Dr. Judith Bense, since 1998. FPAN's Michael Thomin is a contributor to the program. WUWF's Sandra Averhart is executive producer.

Dr. Judy Bense is President Emeritus and Professor of Anthropology/Archaeology at UWF.