The Search for Mablia: The Decisive Battle between Hernando de Soto and Chief Tascalusa / Edition 2

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One of the most profound events in sixteenth-century North America was a ferocious battle between the Spanish army of Hernando de Soto and a larger force of Indian warriors under the leadership of a feared chieftain named Tascalusa. The site of this battle was a small fortified border town within an Indian province known as Mabila. Although the Indians were defeated, the battle stuck a decisive blow to Spanish plans for the conquest and settlement of what is now the southeastern United States. For in that battle, De Soto's army lost its baggage, including all proofs of the richness of the land-proofs that would be necessary to attract future colonists. Facing such a severe setback, De Soto led his army once more into the interior of the continent, where he was not to survive. The ragtag remnants of his once-mighty expedition limped into Mexico some three years later, thankful to be alive. The clear message of their ordeal was that this new land, then known as La Florida, could not be easily subjugated.

But where, exactly, did this decisive battle of Mabila take place? The accounts left by the Spanish chroniclers provide clues, but they are vague, so lacking in corroboration that without additional supporting evidence, it is impossible to trace De Soto's trail on a modern map with any degree of certainty. Within this volume, 17 scholars-specialists in history, folklore, geography, geology, and archaeology-provide a new and encouragingly fresh perspective on the current status of the search for Mabila.

One can rightfully say that the lost battle site of Mabila is the predominant historical mystery of the Deep South.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Of all the De Soto sites that might be found, locating the site of Mabila would do the most for firming up a long stretch of the route. This volume brings together the brightest and the best to sift through all the evidence, and this work will serve as the basis for the archaeological research that must be done if we are to ever find the site of Mabila.”—Charles Hudson, Franklin Professor of Anthropology and History Emeritus from The University of Georgia

“This volume reports on ten years of concentrated effort to do a targeted Soto investigation, following up on centenary studies that established the major questions. It provides a model for such an interdisciplinary workshop, and honestly reveals remaining disagreements, the source of new questions. I found also some very solid new data, new analyses, and new reconstructions worthy of serious attention, plus strong evidence for the potential success of future collaborative research.”—Patricia Galloway, Associate Professor of Archival Enterprise and Digital Asset Management, School of Information, University of Texas-Austin

“If the allure of archaeology is not merely discovery but also the excitement of exploration, then this collection of essays is sure to draw greater attention to the archaeology of the South. . . . Although the search for Mabila has so far proved inconclusive, it has not been fruitless. This book is an exemplary exposition of the burgeoning methodologies of contact-era historical archaeology, with detailed coverage of the current thinking on Mabila and the available evidence for the brutal confrontation that transpired there. . . . Beyond mere curiosity, heritage tourism, and boosterism, the search for Mabila ultimately leads to a conjuncture in early American history, both colonial and indigenous, where a decisive, violent conflict between different peoples with radically dissimilar technologies and ways of life produced long-term, irrevocable consequences. More than the thrill of the chase, the expectation leads to important lessons on how history was and will be made. This book blazes a clear trail.”—Journal of Southern History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817355425
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2009
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 448,139
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Vernon James Knight Jr. is Professor of Anthropology at The University of Alabama.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Introduction Vernon James Knight Jr. 1

Part I Background

1 An Account of the Battle of Mabila, by an Eyewitness Luys Hernandez de Biedma John E. Worth 13

2 The Battle of Mabila in Historical Perspective Lawrence A. Clayton 17

3 How Historical Are the De Soto Chronicles? George E. Lankford 31

4 The De Soto Map and the Luna Narratives: An Overview of Other Sixteenth-Century Sources Kathryn E. Holland Braund 45

5 A Review of De Soto's Itinerary between Talisi and Apafalaya Vernon James Knight Jr. 64

6 The Village of Mabila: Archaeological Expectations Ned J. Jenkins 72

7 What Indian Pottery of Sixteenth-Century Central Alabama Looks Like and Why It Matters Amanda L. Regnier 83

8 What Do Spanish Expeditionary Artifacts of Circa 1540 Look Like and How Often Are They Preserved? Gregory A. Waselkov 94

9 The Present State of Archaeological Survey and Site File Data for the Alabama River and Adjacent Regions Craig T. Sheldon Jr. 107

10 The United States and Alabama De Soto Commissions Douglas E. Jones 129

11 Seeking Methods That Work Vernon James Knight Jr. 139

Part II Conference Results

12 A Comparative Analysis of the De Soto Accounts on the Route to, and Events at, Mabila Robbie Ethridge Kathryn E. Holland Braund Lawrence A. Clayton George E. Lankford Michael D. Murphy 153

13 The Battle of Mabila: Competing Narratives Kathryn E. Holland Braund 182

14 Tracing De Soto's Trail to Mabila Eugene M. Wilson Douglas E. Jones Neal G. Lineback 193

15 The Archaeology of Mabila's Cultural Landscape Gregory A. Waselkov Linda Derry Ned J. Jenkins 227

Postscript Vernon James Knight Jr. 245

Bibliography 247

Contributors 267


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