Tuesday, May 5, 2009

DeSoto Winter Encampment - Tallahassee, Florida

Hernando de Soto and his army spent years exploring the South, yet despite the number of places they went and battles they found, only one location positively associated with the Spanish expedition has been found.

The DeSoto Winter Encampment Historic State Park is located near the heart of Tallahassee. In fact, were it not for the trees and buildings, today's state capital building would be easily visible from the site.

Archaeologists working here have found a variety of artifacts dating from DeSoto's presence, including crossbow points, coins and even pig bones (DeSoto and his men brought the first known pigs to Florida).

Located on the grounds of the former home of Governor John Martin, the site was discovered by the late B. Calvin Jones, a state archaeologist, when he inspected the grounds looking for signs of a later Spanish mission as a construction project was about to get underway.

Jones found Spanish artifacts, but they turned out to be much older than he expected. Subsequent research revealed he had found the site of Anhaica Apalache, the 16th century Indian village where DeSoto and his men camped during the winter of 1539-1540. State authorites were able to reach a deal with developers to save part of the site and it has been designated the DeSoto Winter Encampment Historic State Park.

The park is in the early stages of its development and right now consists of only a couple of historic markers and an interpretive panel. Some special events are held there, however, and there are hopes of better developing it in future years.

To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/fldesoto1.

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