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European Exploration

Skeletal diagram used by bioarchaeologists.
The heritage we study begins when Europeans sailed west and met with diverse peoples living on the vast continent and island chains of North America. Beyond the mythic history of Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of America with support from the Spanish crown, Spain’s important role in colonizing North America is an oft-slighted chapter of American history.

The Spanish and their Catholic missions introduced new ideas and ways of life to the peoples of North America, but they also brought new perils. We still live with the mix of Spanish and Native cultures in our southern borderlands, where corn tortillas and earthen pueblos co-exist with Spanish place-names and Catholic churches. Archaeologists like Jerald Milanich have teamed with bioarchaeologists like Clark Spencer Larsen to learn more about those fateful encounters between Catholic clerics and Native villagers. Others looked back to Spain, to understand the people, culture, and objects that traveled the Atlantic to New Spain.

Florence and Robert Lister took an object-centered approach, studying the Spanish-tradition pottery used in the New Spain colonies. Lister describes the ceramics as “fissured with global history.” The Listers’ efforts to tell the story of these ceramics and their makers spanned several decades, and led them around the world to observe archaeological sites and contemporary potters at work in Morocco, Italy, Panama, Peru, the Caribbean, Taiwan, Morocco, and the southern United States..

Projects in the Book

(Click on bold link to view an excerpt)
Jerald T. Milanich - Spaniards and Native Americans at the Missions of La Florida
Clark Spencer Larsen - Bioarchaeology of the Spanish Missions

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