Search for La Caroline

WORKING PRIMARILY ALONG THE
SOUTH BANK OF THE ST. JOHNS RIVER,
LAB PERSONNEL HAVE DUG OVER
600 SHOVEL TESTS EXAMINING
A VARIED OF AREAS FOR EVIDENCE OF
THE FRENCH AND SPANISH OCCUPATION

 

Illustration of Fort Caroline

 

One of the most iconic features of the modern Jacksonville landscape is Fort Caroline. This National Park Service (NPS) memorial honors the first French settlement (La Caroline) in North America (1564-1565). Following its downfall at the hands of the Spanish, the fort became the scene of a Spanish garrison known as San Mateo (1565-1569). Although today’s replica of Fort Caroline receives thousands of visitors (including out-of-state tourists) a year, currently no material evidence has been found relating to the French colony of La Caroline or the later Spanish fort. Colonial documents concerning the forts, however, do exist and point to its location within the broader Ft. Caroline area of modern Jacksonville. With the 450th anniversary of the La Caroline Colony fast approaching, the Archaeology Lab at the University of North Florida (UNF) received a State of Florida Historical Resources Matching Grant to undertake a systematic archaeological search for evidence of these two historic landmarks. Working primarily along the south bank of the St. Johns River, lab personnel have dug over 600 shovel tests examining a varied of areas for evidence of the French and Spanish occupation. The French and Spanish Forts represent a significant establishment of European contact in the middle of the Mocama, Timcucuan, and the natives who greeted the French.

A primary intent of the present investigation was to intensively survey these several project loci in search of evidence for the La Caroline colony (1564-1565) or the later Spanish Fort of San Mateo (1565-1569), which occupied the same spot of Fort Caroline. The search for La Caroline is part of the University of North Florida’s broader Mocama Archaeological Project (MAP), a collaborative, multidisciplinary research program that combines archaeological survey, excavation, and standardized and specialized analysis; GIS mapping; and documentary and archival research. It is committed to the search for Mocama Indian villages and European colonial communities in order to reconstruct the sixteenth century social landscape of northeastern Florida. Beyond locating these settlements and exploring their physical layouts, this long-term program is designed to research the social history and culture of the region’s sixteenth and seventeenth century Native Americans in the face of European contact, colonization, and missionization. The Lab’s goal is to focus on natives and newcomers as dynamic and interacting communities rather than as static and isolated entities.

Visit the Search for La Caroline website

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