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St. Catherines

St. Catherines: An Island in Time

David Hurst Thomas
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 112
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  • Book Info
    St. Catherines
    Book Description:

    St. Catherines is the story of how a team of archaeologists found the lost sixteenth-century Spanish mission of Santa Catalina de Guale on the coastal Georgia island now known as St. Catherines. The discovery of mission Santa Catalina has contributed significantly to knowledge about early inhabitants of the island and about the Spanish presence in Georgia nearly two centuries before the arrival of British colonists.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3967-2
    Subjects: History, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface 2011
    (pp. vii-xii)
    David Hurst Thomas
  4. Preface 1988
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Chapter One Some Fortunate Hunter
    (pp. 1-2)

    As luck would have it, that “fortunate hunter” turned out to be me. Three hundred years after Santa Catalina disappeared, our team of talented archaeologists rediscovered Georgia’s most important Spanish mission.

    Like historians and archaeologists before us, we felt that the lost Mission Santa Catalina lay on St. Catherines Island, a 14,000-acre tract about fifty miles south of Savannah. Among the so-called Golden Isles, St. Catherines Island is one of the few that have not been subdivided and suburbanized. The Georgia-based, not-for-profit St. Catherines Island Foundation owns the island and strictly regulates a comprehensive program of research and conservation. This...

  7. Chapter Two Georgia’s Invisible Spanish Heritage
    (pp. 3-10)

    Today, the Spanish mission is a highly visible feature of America’s western landscape, the mission heritage still an integral part of life. In fact, growing up in California, the first archaeological site I ever visited was Mission Santa Clara, near San Jose.

    But twelve years ago, when I first came to Georgia to conduct archaeology on St. Catherines Island, I was astonished to learn that a Franciscan mission had once existed there. I had never heard of Santa Catalina de Guale, and I was totally unaware of the extensive mission system that flourished throughout Spanish Georgia and Florida in the...

  8. Chapter Three Santa Catalina de Guale: GEORGIA’S OLDEST KNOWN EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT
    (pp. 11-16)

    In September 1565, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established the capital of his Spanish colony in northeastern Florida. Today, St. Augustine is renowned as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States. Early the following year, Menéndez turned northward to reconnoiter the Spanish holdings, and scout out fruitful locations for mission outposts.

    Menéndez viewed these missions as more than just religious edifices. Through such frontier settlements the Spaniards planned to effect fundamental reorganization of traditional tribal economies. By introducing new crops and European methods of cultivation, the missionaries would bring the Indians into the Spanish community. Where possible, scattered Native...

  9. Chapter Four How Mission Santa Catalina Was Rediscovered
    (pp. 17-32)

    At its seventeenth-century zenith, La Florida consisted of about three dozen Franciscan missions, organized into two major branches, each originating in the colonial capital of St. Augustine and snaking outward into the hinterlands. To the west lived the Timucuan, Apalachee, and Apalachicola Indians; to the north, toward St. Catherines Island, lay the Province of Guale. At least ten missions were located within the present State of Georgia (although the picture is considerably complicated by the relatively frequent mission moves throughout the seventeenth century).

    When we began looking for Santa Catalina, not a single mission site in Georgia could be securely...

  10. Chapter Five What Did Mission Santa Catalina Look Like?
    (pp. 33-48)

    Since the discoveries of 1981, we have been conducting detailed archaeological excavations at Santa Catalina. Because the excavations are ongoing, our conclusions must remain preliminary and tentative, but at least we can begin to sketch a picture of life in Georgia’s first known European colony.

    We have completely exposed the outlines of the church (iglesia) at Santa Catalina and our interpretations are complicated by the fact that at least two churches are represented.

    We know from the historical documents that the sixteenth-century mission church was burnt to the ground in September 1597. These ruins were personally inspected by Governor Canzo,...

  11. Chapter Six New Light on Georgia’s Unwritten Past
    (pp. 49-66)

    We have carefully excavated thousands of artifacts at Santa Catalina. Mostly, we find garbage, broken utilitarian items deliberately tossed out three centuries ago. Still, each potsherd, lump of burnt daub, and tiny corn cob has its story to tell. This unlovely accumulation of refuse is what we expected to find.

    But we also found more than just garbage. A few extremely rare finds allow us the unique opportunity of piecing together the details of life on the Georgia coast half a century before James Oglethorpe founded his Colony of Georgia.

    Life in Spanish Georgia was not easy. The priests and...

  12. Timeline of Significant Historical Events, St. Catherines Island, Georgia
    (pp. 67-70)
  13. Discussion Questions
    (pp. 71-72)
  14. Endnotes
    (pp. 73-74)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 75-80)
  16. Suggestions for Further Reading
    (pp. 81-90)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 91-92)