Thursday, January 31, 2008

De Soto's Fort Located?

If Hernando de Soto and Juan Pardo had been successful and established a series of permanent settlements, we might all be speaking Spanish in this country rather than English. That’s one conclusion that archeologist Rob Beck of the University of Oklahoma likes to tell people about when he describes the discovery of Fort San Juan on the upper Catawba River in Burke County north of Morganton.That fort was established by de Soto’s men in 1567 – a couple of decades before Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition set out from England and established a colony on Roanoke Island that disappeared – and became known as the Lost Colony.

The Fort San Juan story is told in a new episode of UNC-TV’s “Exploring North Carolina” series produced by narrator Tom Earnhardt of Raleigh and videographer Joe Albea of Greenville. It airs tonight at 8:30 p.m. and repeats Friday, Feb. 1 at 9:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 3 at 6 p.m.The program describes how Beck and other archeologists, including David Moore of Warren Wilson College near Asheville and Christopher Rodning of Tulane, assembled the evidence that linked the 12-acre site in Burke County to a known site at Parris Island. S.C., where Spanish explorers established a fort in what then was called northern Florida.

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