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On Tuesday, July 26, The Guardian had an article on the discovery of the old Spanish fort of San Marcos in South Carolina which is now a golf course.

Archaeologists made the discovery on Parris Island, which is home to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

The Guardian‘s reporter, Alan Yuhas, did a bit of digging himself and explained that before the Spanish arrived, the French were there.

I would like to thank Mr Yuhas for his kind mention of my blog post on the French settlement, which resulted in 43 hits on the post below (20 on Tuesday, 20 on Wednesday and 3 on Thursday), highlighted in bold:

Santa Elena was founded in 1566 by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the conquistador who earned himself the title of Florida’s governor the year before, when he founded the settlement of St Augustine. Menéndez carried the brutal politics of Europe to the Americas: that same year he ordered the massacre of more than 200 French settlers who would not renounce their Protestant sect for Catholicism.

Leery of French ambitions on the coast, he founded Santa Elena to the north – near an abandoned settlement of French Huguenots who had mutinied a few years earlier. The Spanish also struggled with food shortages and disease, and had hostile relations with the local Orista and Guale people. By 1576 the tribes managed to sack the town and force the Spanish out completely, only for the conquistadors to return the next year with new settlers, soldiers and material for a new fort of San Marcos.

University of South Carolina archaeologists have been investigating the site off and on over the past 23 years. Archaeologists from the University of Georgia have brought in remote sensing which is now enabling the teams to map the settlement more precisely:

Anthropologist Victor Thompson, of the University of Georgia, said that the new technology had provided “an unprecedented view of the 16th-century landscape”.

Thompson said that the team used ground-penetrating radar, a resistance meter and a gradiometer, which he called “sort of a metal detector on steroids”.

The Spanish abandoned San Marcos and the larger settlement of Santa Elena for Saint Augustine after the English arrived in 1587. Sir Francis Drake was sent to raid Spanish settlements in what is now South Carolina.

Over time, soil built up over the settlement, so it will be fascinating to find out more about this chapter of American history as the dig progresses.

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