Monday, September 21, 2009

Rough Audience

I started reading Hugh Thomas' Rivers of Gold this weekend as DEEP background for PdL. I came across this passage describing an incident on Columbus' third voyage. p.173.

"They [Natives of Trinidad] wore what seemed to be Moorish headdresses. Columbus tried to attract them by shining swords or even saucepans at them, but they were even less attracted by Juan de Guadalajara, who played a tambourine and whose charming music (to which some of the Spaniards danced) led them to begin shooting arrows. Columbus ordered crossbows to be fired. The natives rowed away."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Maravilloso Aracabucero

Another passage from Cieza's Discovery and Conquest of Peru. pp.112-113. This one on the effects of the arquebus or matchlock musket.

"He and they [Lord of Tumbez & his entourage] were surprised to see Pedro de Candia's stature, and they begged him to discharge an arquebus that he carried because he had done it on a ship several times in the presence of some Indians, which was the reason why the others knew about it. In order to please them, he placed the fuse, and aiming it at a thick board that was near there, he hit it and shot through it as if it were a melon. When the arquebus discharged, many of the Indians fell to the ground, and others screamed, and they judged the Christian very brave because of his stature and for discharging those shots. Some say that the lord of Tumez ordered that they should bring a lion and a tiger [puma and jaguar? - and I have to wonder if Candia must have been having second thoughts at this point] they had there to see if Candia could defend himself from them or if they would kill him. They brought them and set them loose on Candia, who having the arquebus loaded, fired it, and more Indians than before fell to the ground in fright. And without the Indians, the animals came to him as gentle as if they were lambs, as Candia told it. The cacique ordered them returned to where they had been. He asked Candia for the arquebus and poured many cups of their maize wine into the barrel, saying: "Take it, drink, since one makes such great noise with you that your are similar to the sounds of the heavens." And he ordered Pedro de Candia to sit down. They gave him plenty to eat and asked him many things about wht they wanted to know. He answered what he could to make them understand. he saw the fortress. The mamaconas, who are the sacred virgins, wanted to see him, and they sent to beg the ruler to bring him there. Thus it was done. They were extremely pleased to see Candia...Most of them were beautiful, and all very affectionate.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Art of the De Soto Junior Ranger Book, on display at the South Florida Museum

The Art of the De Soto Junior Ranger Book, on display at the South Florida Museum

The Art of the De Soto Junior Ranger Book, on display at the South Florida Museum

BRADENTON, FLORIDA – The South Florida Museum and the National Park Services’ De Soto National Memorial are joining together to launch the release of the new De Soto Junior Ranger Activity Book. The event will feature the work of local artist and historian Hermann Trappmann, whose pieces are featured in the book. A month long exhibit will open on September 20th in the curator’s choice gallery, with an evening reception on Friday, September 25th. The free evening event is for kids and adults and will run from 6pm to 8pm. The reception will include a meet and greet with the artist Hermann Trappman and book designer Jessie Lampack. While there, kids will be able to earn a unique South Florida Museum- De Soto National Memorial Junior Ranger badge. Each child will receive an autographed copy of the new book along with other giveaways and door prizes. Enjoy snack and beverages with Park Rangers and volunteers dressed in 16th century Conquistador period clothing. Please RSVP by calling 941-746-4131 x 11

Event admission and all activates are free. Event hours are 6:00p.m. till 8:00 p.m..
The South Florida Museum is located at 201 10th St. W., Bradenton, Fl

34205. by Interstate take I-75 exit 220 travel West down SR 64/Manatee Ave to 10th St W take a Left, on Right side past Barcarrota Blvd.

The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Colonist, Conquistadors, and the Crown

I just found out about this via a Google alert. Alas, quite a bit little late for me to plan on attending. It's certainly the kind of programs that should be encouraged for the upcoming Ponce de Leon (500th) and St. Augustine (450th) founding commemorations.

Colonist, Conquistadors, and the Crown


September 18-19, 2009
Pensacola, FL

In honor of the 450th anniversary of the Luna expedition (1559), Celebrate Pensacola!, the Spain-Florida Foundation, West Florida Historic Preservation, Inc., University of West Florida Archaeology Institute and Department of Anthropology, and the Florida Public Archaeology Network are hosting a public symposium in order to educate the public about the role of Pensacola during the 16th century Spanish exploration and colonization of the new world. The symposium will be held on the exact anniversary of the hurricane that destroyed the Luna colony, preventing Pensacola from being the oldest continually occupied city in the United States. Internationally recognized scholars from throughout the United State and Spain will deliver lectures on a variety of topics within the context of 16th century Spanish colonization. This symposium provides a unique opportunity for Pensacola’s residents and visitors to learn from and interact with leading scholars in history and archaeology.

We wish to specially thank these organizations for their generous donations that funded the symposium:

Spain-Florida Foundation

Consul General of Spain, Miami

Schedule of Events

Friday, September 18, 2009 (Gallery Night)

5:00 pm-6:30 pm, Reception, Meet the scholars and purchase signed copies of
Unearthing Pensacola and Colonial Pensacola (T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum)

7:00-8:00 pm, Keynote Address, Dr. Judith A. Bense (Old Christ Church)

Colonist, Conquistadors, and the Crown: Stories of 16-Century Spanish Florida

Old Christ Church, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

9:00- 9:15 Welcome & Introductions

9:15-10:15 Dr. Paul Hoffman, Louisiana State University
Why We Don’t Speak Spanish: Thoughts About The Spanish South to Ca. 1650

10:15-11:15 Dr. Mary Glowacki, State of Florida, Bureau of Archaeological Research
Anhaica Apalache and De Soto’s Winter Encampment: An Unfinished Story

11:15- 12:00 Dr. John Worth, University of West Florida
The Tristán de Luna Expedition in Historical Context

12:00- 1:00 Lunch (on your own)

1:00-2:00 Dr. Roger Smith, State of Florida, Bureau of Archaeological Research
The Archaeology of the Emanuel Point I Ship

2:00-3:00 Dr. John Bratten, University of West Florida
The Archaeology of the Emanuel Point II Ship

3:00-3:45 Dr. Kathleen Deagan, University of Florida
After Luna: The Archaeology of the Pedro Menéndez Era in St. Augustine, 1565-1572

3:45-4:00 Closing Remarks

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In the News: Experts closing in on site of bloody battle of Mabila

Experts closing in on site of bloody battle of Mabila - Birmingham,AL,USA
"For almost two centuries, professionals and amateurs have quested after the lost city where the army of Spanish conquistador Hernando De Soto clashed with ..."

An expanded version of the story linked in the previous post with morte information and a map. Still no real news as such.

In the News: Team may be closer to De Soto battle site

Team may be closer to De Soto battle site
The Huntsville Times -

"For almost two centuries, professionals and amateurs have quested after the lost city where the army of Spanish conquistador Hernando De Soto clashed with ...We are always looking for the smoking sword, but just finding one doesn't mean that is where De Soto was..."

No real news, in particular any 16th C. artifacts or new primary documents, on the subject but at least archaeologists are still looking."

The Lance Bucket

Another brief passage from Cieza's The Discovery and Conquest of Peru p.166

"...the Spaniards attacked them [Indians], mounted on their horses with their lances in hand, not wanting to return them to the lance bucket."

What is most interesting here is that in all my years of reading conquistador accounts I had never come cross the term 'lance bucket' or something similar. Nor had I ever seen a period illustration of such a device for holding ones lance until Napoleonic era cavalry in the late 18th/early19th century. The subject came up about a year ago in the Soldados email discussion group and there seems to be no evidence for their use by the Spanish colonial troops in the 18th C. at all. It is a bit of a curiosity why something apparently so practical didn't get widely adopted and seems to have been lost, only to be rediscovered two centuries later.

While on the subject of lances, and what got me reminded to dig out this passage was, a section of "History's Worst Jobs" hosted by Tony Robinson (Baldric from Blackadder) on the History International channel this morning. Bottomline, it took about two days roughcut, trim, scrape and lathe a lance using hand (and foot powered) tools.

On You Tube:

The Worst Jobs in History - The Royal Age - Part 1

Special bonus a quick lesson on making riveted mail.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Arms and Armor

Another interesting passage on a muster from Cieza de Leon's The Discovery and Conquest of Peru p.399

Cochabamba c.1534

"He [Alonso de Alvarado] ordered that all who had joined him should come out in public because he wanted to see how the footmen were armed. They appeared with bucklers and swords or crossbows, short coats [of mail?], and strong padding, useful for war here, and the horsemen with their lances and morions and other armor made of cotton."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

De Soto Winter Encampment Site

It has been a few years since I last visited the De Soto Winter Encampment Site in Tallahassee. I see by the De Soto Winter Encampment Site 1539-1540 Image Gallery that the State has added some exhibits at last. Still, the Florida State Parks website does not even list it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Conquistadors as the Food

Again a passage from The Discovery and Conquest of Peru by Pedro de Cieza de Leon
This one on conquistadors being the food.

"Some died from illness, and others were bloated, and some were eaten by caymen in the rivers when they crossed from one side to the other. The mosquitoes bothered them considerably."

"They were continually dying, and the Spaniards and others were becoming ill, while they were crossing the rivers, the caymen were feeding on them to satiation."

Food and Clothing of the Conquistadors

When reading period accounts of the Conquistadors I try to take notes as aids in research for reenactment. Some time ago I read The Discovery and Conquest of Peru by Pedro de Cieza de Leon (edited and translated by Parma Cook & Noble David Cook, Duke University Press 1998)pp.56-57

"...they had to return quickly to relive those who had remained with Captain Francisco Pizarro. They loaded the ship with a good supply of maize, meat, bananas, and other fruits and roots.....

...the beach where they had found the coconuts...He was carrying in a backpack [another of those times where I'd love to see the original word - a"backpack" isn't something one typically sees in period illustrations]three loaves of bread for the captain and four oranges [per the footnote on this passage, Oviedo planted orange trees in Darien around 1514]...Pizarro divided the loaves and oranges among all of them without himself eating more than the others [suggesting of course that it was a Captain's prerogative to do just that] They became as invigorated as if each had eaten an entire capon."

"Because most of the shirts they wore were made of coarse linen, their clothes were rotting, and their hats and caps were falling to pieces."

..and also a brief mention a of a tent:

"...I walked out of a tent in the valley and drenched in water I climbed up to the hills just to escape them [mosquitoes]."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Aztec Temple of Blood

I caught the end of a repeat broadcast of the Aztec Temple episode from the Unsolved History series cable's Military Channel last night. It originally aired on TLC or Discovery a few years ago.

Unsolved History
Aztec Temple

In 1519, the Aztecs were the most powerful and fearsome civilization in the Americas. The center of Aztec life was Templo Mayor, located in the middle of their capital city, Tenochtitlan, now modern Mexico City. The 12-story pyramid was used for worship.

The blurb above doesn't begin to do the show justice as it features not only recreations of Aztec and Spanish weapons, their use and a comparison of effects, but human sacrifice experimental archaeology!

El Dorado Conquistador Museum

After the last post's obsessive research mode, I direct your attention, gentle reader, to Minnesota's El Dorado Conquistador Museum .

Friday, September 4, 2009

Paw-Paw fruit

This news item;

Pawpaw: Provides fruit for Ozarks desserts - Springfield,MO,USA
"The first historical reference of pawpaws was made by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1541, who found it growing in villages east of the Mississippi ..."

caught my attention for for a not so obvious reason. Almost a decade ago in preparation for the De Soto 2000 event in Parkin, Arkansas, I'd researched clothing and food used by the expedition west of the Mississippi, which by then was totally dependent on native wear and cuisine, and I simply couldn't remember ever coming across a mention of pawpaws, not could I find the fruit in a review my old notes. I
fondly recall stirring a pot with a persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) stick at the event as persimmons are specifically noted, but pawpaw just didn't ring a bell. So I double checked with my copy of Adin Baber's rather comprehensive Food Plants of the De Soto Expedition 1539-1541., published in the journal Tequesta in 1942. Again no mention of pawpaws. Searching the available on-line De Soto Chronicles for 'pawpaws' had the same result. So where is this authoritative historical fact coming from? I asked myself.

At Pawpaw-treat-yourself-taste I found this quote,"Native Americans collected and cultivated the fruits, and 400 years ago a traveling companion of De Soto compared them to buttery, sweet pears. (He had never tasted a banana.)" Again, searching for "buttery," "sweet," or "pears" failed to turn up a match. The De Soto, never tasted a banana aside seemed questionable too. The Elvas account mentions the expedition's time in Cuba where the resupplied after the voyage from a Spain and before the La Florida entrada.


"There is a tree, which is a stalk without any branch, the height of a lance, each leaf the length of a javelin, the fruit of the size and form of a cucumber, the bunch having twenty or thirty of them, with which the tree goes on bending down more and more as they grow: they are called plantanos in that country, are of good flavour, and will ripen after they are gathered, although they are better when they mature on the tree"

Though in fairness I should note that that the yellow sweet banana that we all know is a 19th Century mutation of the plantain.

Continuing my Google search I came across pawpaw :

"Pawpaw was first described by a Portuguese adventurer traveling with Hernando de Soto as the army of 600 men explored the southeastern states from 1539 to 1542.

For the next 200 years, little is heard of pawpaw until it was described by Mark Catesby in a history book. He included a full-sized painting of pawpaw."

Yes, at last clue, the "Portuguese adventurer" has to be Elvas who as he did in Cuba, particularly noted foodstuffs. Reading carefully the chapter:


"There is everywhere in the country a fruit, the produce of a plant like ligoacam, that is propagated by the Indians, having the appearance of the royal pear, with an agreeable smell and taste."

Which must be the source of the pawpaw reference. (I'd searched for "pears' rather than "pear" which had a number of letter string false positives) Still, what's a "ligoacam"? Searching for that term simply results in self referencing the Elvas account. Mystery solved at least partially.