Desoto’s calling cards?
Five years after Fernbank Museum launched an archaeological expedition to investigate the history of early contact between Native American Indians and Europeans in Georgia, their exhibit, De Soto’s Footsteps, On view May 22, 2010 – March 31, 2012 showcases some of the rare artifacts that tell of those encounters and will reveal the significance of the findings.
Among the objects on display are Native American artifacts such as pottery, pipes and stone tools, as well as artifacts carried by the Spanish, highlighted by four distinctive types of glass beads, and objects of iron, brass, and silver. None of the objects had ever been on public display. These findings generated intense interest from archaeologists, scholars, historians and the National Geographic Society, which were to continue with further research.
Beads often reveal long-lost histories of countries, cultures, and people. For example, in November 2009, archaeologists with Atlanta’s Fernbank Museum of Natural History unearthed the first evidence of conquistador Hernando de Soto’s stay in Georgia, in the U.S., in 1540. The evidence used to make this determination is beads!
It’s was long suspected that de Soto passed through Georgia on his way from Tallahassee, Florida, to North Carolina, however no solid proof of this had ever been found. Then, Fernbank Museum archeologists discovered a cache of rare glass and chevron beads, which ScienceDaily describes as ” ‘calling cards’ of De Soto due to their distinctive patterns and limited production.” These beads are significant because Native Americans did not have glass beads before Europeans introduced them as trade items.
According to Dennis Blanton, the Fernbank Museum’s curator of Native American archaeology, &quto;Until we know De Soto’s path, we won’t fully understand Native populations or the changes that took place after European contact. This is where the Spanish story and the Native story become one.” And it seems those stories are stitched together with beads.