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Florida's First Encounters: Panfilo de Narváez (Part 1)

The discovery of gold in Mexico in 1521 changed everything for the Spanish and their quest to find it in Florida began with explorer Panfilo de Narváez.

As very little of Spanish Florida had been explored, in 1528 Narváez obtained royal license to conquer, settle, and explore the coast area of the Gulf of Mexico. With gold fever, his expedition landed in the Tampa Bay area with 300 soldiers and 40 horses. And, making his first disastrous mistake, he sent his supply ships north, but never saw them again.

The natives in Tampa assured Narváez that the Apalachee Indians in north Florida had much gold, so they headed north. They found the Apalachee around Tallahassee, but they had no gold, so they took over a village of about 40 houses for five weeks. While there, they were constantly under attack by the Apalachee, who were excellent archers.

Archaeologists have found some traces of the Narváez expedition, such as glass beads and iron tools, in the Tallahassee-St. Marks area, and the search is still on to find his encampment.

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.