America's Oldest European Settlement Has Been Found

The colony in Pensacola predates Jamestown by nearly 50 years
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2015 5:22 PM CST
America's Oldest European Settlement Has Been Found
Painting of de Luna's landing at Pensacola.   (Pensapedia)

The Pensacola News Journal has a highly interactive and informative look at a major discovery out of Florida: the oldest multi-year European settlement in the United States. “This is one of those almost once-in-a-lifetime type things,” University of West Florida professor John Worth says. "I didn’t even hope to find it as much as just wish.” The settlement is a Spanish colony established by Don Tristan de Luna in 1559—48 years before Jamestown. The Spanish government sent De Luna, 550 soldiers, 200 Aztecs, and African slaves from what is present-day Mexico to settle Florida's coast. Despite a hurricane destroying all their ships five weeks into the colony's existence, it persisted for two years. While Europeans lived in what is now the US earlier, none of the settlements lasted more than a few weeks.

Luna's colony was finally discovered in a downtown Pensacola neighborhood by historian Tom Garner in October when he found part of a 16th century olive jar where a house had recently been torn down, the News Journal reports. He went on to find cookware, beads, and more. Worth had read many descriptions of the colony, and it all came together when he saw Garner's site. "I walked out and literally it was like every single description in there was describing that precise point," he says. The colony was inhabited by 1,500 or so people and likely takes up multiple city blocks. Luckily neighbors "responded enthusiastically" to letting archaeologists take a look around. “It’s hard to believe this opportunity, this window, this site is finally here," Worth says. "Now not only do we have it, but we get to explore it.” Read the full story here. (Read more history stories.)

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