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Ponce de Leon was the first Spaniard to land in Florida

The first recorded Spaniard to land in Florida was Juan Ponce de Léon in 1513 and at the time, Florida was thought to be a big island that de Léon was authorized to discover and conquer.

Juan Ponce first landed near Melbourne Beach where he took possession and named it La Florida, as it was Easter, a time of flowers. However, they were immediately attacked by Native Americans and everywhere else they landed along the Atlantic coast.

Rounding the peninsula, he landed in San Carlos Bay near Cape Coral, again attacked by natives, he left. Eight years later, in 1521, he returned with 200 people to start a colony and established the first intentional European settlement in North America. But being constantly attacked by the Calusa Indians, de Léon was wounded and he ordered the fearful colonists to return to Cuba where he died.

While historians have unearthed many details, archaeologists have yet to find a trace of Florida’s first settlement attempt in North America, but we are still looking and what a find that will be!

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.