Archaeologists May Have Discovered a Long-Lost Indigenous Settlement in Florida

A team of archaeologists is “fairly confident” that they have discovered the location of a lost Indigenous community that once lived in northeast Florida. Mention of the Saraby settlement appears in French and Spanish historical documents as far back as the 1560s, but until now, its location had eluded researchers.

According to the report published by the University of North Florida, whose archaeology lab worked on the find, the type of Indigenous pottery, combined with European artifacts and cartographic map evidence, may prove that Big Talbot Island was the home of the 16th-century Mocama settlement.

The team from the University of North Florida, led by Keith Ashley, UNF Archaeology Lab director and assistant professor, is expanding on decades of excavations in Northeast Florida. The dig is part of the UNF Archaeology Lab’s extensive Mocama Archaeological Project, which focuses on the history of the Mocama-speaking Timucua Native Americans who lived along the Atlantic coast of Northern Florida.

The Mocama were among the first Indigenous groups encountered by Spanish settlers in the mid-1560s. Warfare with the British and other Native tribes, infectious disease, and European colonization led to the demise of the Mocama community, which was split between two major chiefdoms.

The archaeology team’s findings included 50 pieces of early Spanish pottery that date to around the time that Europeans landed in what is now Florida. Bone, shell, and stone artifacts, as well as corn cob fragments, were also discovered. Excavations are expected to continue for the next three years. Researchers hope to find find houses or other architectural structures.

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