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The Adventure Of Amerigo Vespucci

Amerigo Vespucci

Created By

Dr Iwan Suwandy,MHA

Copyright @ Dr Iwan 2013

AMERIGO (AMERICO) VESPUCCI

 

Amerigo Vespucci (1452-1512):

 

                                  
                                             biography

Amerigo Vespucci

Amerigo VespucciBorn: 9-Mar-1454
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: 22-Feb1512
Location of death: Seville, Spain
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Abbazia Di Ognissanti, Florence, Italy

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Explorer

Nationality: Italy
Executive summary: American eponym

Merchant and adventurer, who gave his name of Amerigo to the new world as America, was born at Florence on the 9th of March 1451. His father, Nastagio (Anastasio) Vespucci, was a notary, and his uncle, Fra Giorgio Antonio Vespucci, to whom he owed his education, was a scholarly Dominican and a friend of Girolamo Savonarola. As a student Amerigo is said to have shown a preference for natural philosophy, astronomy and geography. He was placed as a clerk in the great commercial house of the Medici, then the ruling family in Florence. A letter of the 30th of December 1492 shows that he was then in Seville; and until the 12th of January 1496 he seems to have usually resided in Spain, especially at Seville and Cadiz, probably as an agent of the Medici. In December 1495, on the death of a Florentine merchant, Juanoto Berardi, established at Seville, who had fitted out the second expedition of Christopher Columbus in 1493, and had also undertaken to fit out twelve ships for the king of Spain (April 9th, 1495), Vespucci was commissioned to complete the contract. As Ferdinand, on the 10th of April 1495, recalled the monopoly conceded to Columbus (this order of April 10th, 1495, was cancelled on June 2nd, 1497), “private” exploring now had an opportunity, and adventurers of all kinds were able to leave Spain for the West. Vespucci claims to have sailed with one of these “freelance” expeditions from Cadiz on the 10th of May 1497. Touching at Grand Canary on the way, the four vessels he accompanied, going thirty-seven days on a west-south-west course, and making 1000 leagues, are said to have reached a supposed continental coast in 16° N., 70° W. from Grand Canary (June 16th, 1497). This should have brought them into the Pacific. They sailed along the coast, says Vespucci, for 80 leagues to the province of Parias (or Lariab), and then 870 leagues more, always to the northwest, to the “finest harbor in the world”, which from this description should be in British Columbia or thereabouts. From there 100 leagues more to north and northeast to the islands of the people called “Iti”, from which they returned to Spain, reaching Cadiz on the 15th of October 1498. Still following Vespucci’s own statement, he, on the 16th of May 1499, started on a second voyage in a fleet of three ships under Alonzo de Ojeda (Hojeda). Sailing southwest over 500 leagues they crossed the ocean in forty-four days, finding land in 5° S. From there, encountering various adventures, they worked up to 15° N., and returned to Spain by way of Antiglia (Española, San Domingo), reaching Cadiz on the 8th of September 1500. Entering the service of Dom Manuel of Portugal, Vespucci claims to have taken part in a third American expedition, which left Lisbon on the 10th (or 15th) of May 1501. Vespucci has given two accounts of this alleged third voyage, differing in many details, especially dates and distances. From Portugal he declares that he sailed to Bezeguiche (Cape Verde), and from there southwest for 700 leagues, reaching the American coast in 5° S. on the 7th (or 17th) of August. From there eastward for 300 (150) leagues, and south and west to 52° S. (or 73° 30′; in his own words, “13° from the antarctic pole”, i.e. well into the antarctic continent). He returned, he adds, by Sierra Leone (June 10th), and the Azores (end of July), to Lisbon (September 7th, 1502). His second Portuguese (and fourth and last American) voyage, as alleged by him, was destined for Malacca, which he supposed to be in 33° S. (really in 2° 14′ N.). Starting from Lisbon on the 10th of May 1503, with a fleet of six ships, and reaching Bahia by way of Fernando Noronha (?), Vespucci declares that he built a fort at a harbor in 18° S., and from there returned to Lisbon (June 18th, 1504). In February 1505, being again in Spain, he visited Christopher Columbus, who entrusted to him a letter for his son Diego. On the 24th of April 1505, Vespucci received Spanish letters of naturalization; and on the 6th of August 1508 was appointed piloto mayor or chief pilot of Spain, an office which he held until his death at Seville on the 22nd of February 1512.

If his own account had been trustworthy, it would have followed that Vespucci reached the mainland of America eight days before John Cabot (June 16th against June 24th, 1497). But Vespucci’s own statement of his exploring achievements hardly carries conviction. This statement is contained (i.) in his letter written from Lisbon (March or April 1503) to Lorenzo Piero Francesco di Medici, the head of the firm under which his business career had been mostly spent, describing the alleged Portuguese voyage of March 1501 to September 1502. The original Italian text is lost, but we possess the Latin translation by “Jocundus interpreter”, perhaps the Giocondo who brought his invitation to Portugal in 1501. This letter was printed (in some nine editions) soon after it was written, the first two issues (Mundus Novus and Epistola Albericii de Novo Mundo), without place or date, appearing before 1504, the third, of 1504 (Mundus Novus), at Augsburg. Two very early Paris editions are also known, and one Strassburg (De Ora Antarctica) of 1505, edited by E. Ringmann. It was also included in the Paesi novamente retrovati of 1507 (Vicenza) under the title of Novo Mondo da Alb. Vesputio. The connection of the new world with Vespucci, thus expressed, is derived from the argument of this first letter, that it was right to call Amerigo’s discovery a new world, because it had not been seen before by anyone. This prepared the way for the American name soon given to the continent. (ii.) In Vespucci’s letter, also written from Portugal (September 1504), and probably addressed to his old school-fellow Piero Soderini, gonfaloniere of Florence 1502-12. From the Italian original (of which four printed copies still exist, without place or date, but probably before 1507) a French version was made, and from the latter a Latin translation, published at St. Dié in Lorraine in April 1507, and immediately made use of in the Cosmographiae Introductio (St. Dié, 1507) of Martin Waldseemüller (Hylacomylus), professor of cosmography in St. Dié University. Here we have perhaps the first suggestion in a printed book that the newly discovered fourth part of the world should be called “America, because Americus discovered it.” Since Alexander von Humboldt discussed the subject in his Examen critique de l’histoire de la géographie du nouveau continent (1837), vol. IV, the general weight of opinion, despite other defenses of Vespucci’s voyages, general consensus has been that he had no share in the first discovery of the American continent.

Father: Nastagio Vespucci
Mother: Lisabetta Mini
Brother: Antonio
Wife: Maria Cerezo (m. 1505)

 

Amerigo Vespucci detail
Giuseppe Maria Testi (after)
Santi Soldaini (designer of print)
Carlo Lasinio Padre (engraver)
Amerigo Vespucci
Copperplate engraving
Livorno: 1812
18 x 13 inches overall
Sold, please inquire as to the availability of similar items.

Elaborately decorated profile portrait of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who, as the banner at the top proclaims “bestowed his name upon a world.” Vespucci is set within an oval stone frame, garlanded in laurel leaf branches, with an ocean-scape in the background, and in the foreground with various symbols of exploration including a map, navigational instruments, globe, compass, hour glass, octant, anchor, lantern. Below the image are a row of laudatory verses and a brief biography of Vespucci, all in Italian. The extravagantly worded inscriptions demonstrate the great pride Italians took in his achievements.

Print inscriptions are below. Rough translations from the Italian are provided. In some cases archaic words are used that cannot be easily translated.

Text of Banner:

Tu destil nome un mondo e quei del paro, tuo nome rende famoso e chiaro.

Four Verses:

Genio Sublime, Splendor di Flora, Che il vasto Oceano, Sfidaste un oi.
[Sublime genius, splendid flower, who the vast ocean defied.]

Alta Scoperta, Che Festi allora, Dun Mondo incognito, L’olero stupi.
[Great discovery, that was celebrated then, of a then-unknown world, (l’olero) amazed.]

Morte ne tempo La tua findora, Perenne Gloria D’oblio cuopri
[Died in your time, your (findora), perennial glory, of oblivion discovered.]

Vive immortale, Tuo nome ancora, Esempre ai posteri, Vivia cosi.
[Immortal you live, your name still and always will live on in posterity.]

Biography:

Amerigo dister Nastasio d’Amerigo Vespucci nacque in Firenze il Marzo 1451. Dotato d’un genio sublime ardi tentare le vie dell’Oceano e fece quattro viaggi all sole e Coste de quell vasto Continente, che per consenso di tutte le Nazioni fu dal suo nome chiamato America. _____. Intraprese il primo: viaggio per servizio del Re di. Spagna il di so Maggio 1497. Gli Altri per il re di Portogullo a cui scuopri il Brasiles, e vi fece costruire il primo: Forte ___ Devesi ad Amerigo l’innvenvione dell importante metodo di prendere in mare la longitudine ___. Sell’atto d’intraprendere un quinto viaggio per il Re di Spagna fu sorpreso dalla morte nel 1516, o come altri vagbono nel 1508, e fu sepolto nell’ isole Ferzere restando per sempre il suo gloriosio. Neme che l’incidia e la calungia tentorono invarno di cancellare dalla memoria della grata Posterita, che lo dichiaro uno dei piu gran Navigatori , e dei pui rinomati ingegni del secoto XV.

[The biography explains that Nastasiro d’Amerigo Vespucci was born in Florence in March 1451. “Equipped with a sublime genius,” he “burned” with the desire to explore the byways of the ocean and made four voyages “along the coasts of that vast continent, so that with the consent of all nations it was named America.” It is said that he undertook his first voyage under the auspices of the King of Spain, on May 1497. (Later on in his life, Vespucci left behind a controversy when he said he did not in fact make that voyage.) The others were made for the King of Portugal, for whom he discovered Brazil. The biography asserts that Amerigo was an innovator in “the important method of navigating the sea using longitude.” It also states that he died suddenly in 1516, and was buried in the island of Ferzere, “remaining forever glorious.” (The Catholic Encyclopedia gives his date of death as 1512.) The statement concludes, “I declare him one of the great navigators, and the most renowned geniuses of the 15th Century.”]

A M E R I G O VERPUCCI    

             
Amerigo Vespucci (born in Florence in 1452), whose name was given to the American continents by Waldsmuller in 1507, worked in Seville (where he died) in the business house which fitted out Columbus’ second expedition. Here he gives an account of the first of his own four voyages. If his claims are accurate he reached the mainland of the Americas shortly before Cabot, and  at least 14 months before Columbus.

 

 

 

 

Account of His First Voyage, 1497


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter of Amerigo Vespucci

 

To Pier Soderini, Gonfalonier of the Republic of Florence

Magnificent Lord. After humble reverence and due commendations, etc. It may be that your Magnificence will be surprised by (this conjunction of) my rashness and your customary wisdom, in that I should so absurdly bestir myself to write to your Magnificence the present so-prolix letter:

 

knowing (as I do) that your Magnificence is continually employed in high councils and affairs concerning the good government of this sublime Republic.

 

And will hold me not only presumptuous, but also idlymeddlesome in setting myself to write things, neither suitable to your station, nor entertaining, and written in barbarous style, and outside of every canon of polite literature:

 

 but my confidence which I have in your virtues and in the truth of my writing, which are things (that) are not found written neither by the ancients nor by modern writers, as your Magnificence will in the sequel perceive, makes me bold.

 

 The chief cause which moved (me) to write to you, was at the request of the present bearer, who is named Benvenuto Benvenuti our Florentine (fellow-citizen), very much, as it is proven, your Magnificence’s servant, and my very good friend: who happening to be here in this city of Lisbon, begged that I should make communication to your Magnificence of the things seen by me in divers regions of the world, by virtue of four voyages which I have made in discovery of new lands:

 two by order of the king of Castile, King Don Ferrando VI, across the great gulf of the Ocean-sea, towards the west: and the other two by command of the puissant King Don Manuel King of Portugal, towards the south;

 

 telling me that your Magnificence would take pleasure thereof, and that herein he hoped to do you service: wherefore I set me to do it: because I am assured that your Magnificence holds me in the number of your servants, remembering that in the time of our youth I was your friend, and now (am your) servant:

and (remembering our) going to hear the rudiments of grammar under the fair example and instruction of the venerable monk friar of Saint Mark Fra Giorgio Antonio Vespucci: whose counsels and teaching would to God that I had followed:

for as saith Petrarch, I should be another man than what I am. Howbeit soever I grieve not: because I have ever taken delight in worthy matters: and although these trifles of mine may not be suitable to your virtues, I will say to you as said Pliny to Maecenas, you were sometime wont to take pleasure in my prattlings: even though your Magnificence

be continuously busied in public affairs, you will take some hour of relaxation to consume a little time in frivolous or amusing things: and as fennel is customarily given atop of delicious viands to fit them for better digestion, so may you, for a relief from your so heavy occupations, order this letter of mine to be read: so that they may withdraw you somewhat from the continual anxiety and assiduous reflection upon public affairs:

 and if I shall be prolix, I crave pardon, my Magnificent Lord. Your Magnificence shall know that the motive of my coming into his realm of Spain was to traffic in merchandise: and that I pursued this intent about four years:

 

during which I saw and knew the inconstant shiftings of Fortune: and how she kept changing those frail and transitory benefits: and how at one time she holds man on the summit of the wheel, and at another time drives him back from her, and despoils him of what may be called his borrowed riches: so that, knowing the continuous toil which main undergoes to win them, submitting himself to so many anxieties and risks, I resolved to abandon trade, and to fix my aim upon something more praiseworthy and stable: whence it was that I made preparation for going to see part of the world and its wonders: and herefor the time and place presented themselves most opportunely to me: which was that the King Don Ferrando of Castile being about to despatch four ships to discover new lands towards the west, I was chosen by his Highness to go in that fleet to aid in making discovery:

 

1497

and we set out from the port of Cadiz on the 10th day of May 1497, and took our route through the great gulf of the Ocean-sea: in which voyage we were eighteen months (engaged): and discovered much continental land and innumerable islands, and great part of them inhabited: whereas there is no mention made by the ancient writers of them:

I believe, because they had no knowledge thereof: for, if I remember well, I have read in some one (of those writers) that he considered that this Ocean-sea was an unpeopled sea: and of this opinion was Dante our poet in the xxvi. chapter of the Inferno, where he feigns the death of Ulysses, in which voyage I beheld things of great wondrousness, as your Magnificence shall understand.

 

As I said above, we left the port of Cadiz four consort ships: and began our voyage in direct course to the Fortunates Isles which are called to-day la gran Canaria, which are situated in the Ocean-sea at the extremity of the inhabited west, (and) set in the third climate: over which the North Pole has an elevation of 27 and a half degrees beyond their horizon

[note 1:

That is, which are situate at 27 1/2 degrees north latitude.] and they are 280 leagues distant from this city of Lisbon, by the wind between mezzo di and libeccio.

[note 2:

South-south-west. It is to be remarked that Vespucci always uses the word wind to signify the course in which it blows, not the quarter from which it rises.]

where we remained eight days, taking in provision of water, and wood and other necessary things: and from here, having said our prayers, we weighed anchor, and gave the sails to the wind, beginning our course to westward, taking one quarter by southwest

 

 

 

 [note 3: West and a quarter by south-west.]:

 and so we sailed on till at the end of 37 days we reached a land which we deemed to be a continent: which is distant westwardly from the isles of Canary about a thousand leagues beyond the inhabited region

 

verpuci arrived at the new world

 [note 4:

This phrase is merely equivalent to a repetition of from the Canaries, these islands having been already designated the extreme western limit of inhabited land.] within the torrid zone:

for we found the North Pole at an elevation of 16 degrees above its horizon, [note 5: That is, 16 degrees north latitude.] and (it was) westward, according to the shewing of our instruments, 75 degrees from the isles of Canary:

 whereat we anchored with our ships a league and a half from land; and we put out our boats freighted with men and arms: we made towards the land, and before we reached it, had sight of a great number of people who were going along the shore: by which we were much rejoiced: and we observed that they were a naked race:

they shewed themselves to stand in fear of us: I believe (it was) because they saw us clothed and of other appearance (than their own): they all withdrew to a hill, and for whatsoever signals we made to them of peace and of friendliness,

 

 

Vespucci map

 they would not come to parley with us: so that, as the night was now coming on, and as the ships were anchored in a dangerous place, being on a rough and shelterless coast, we decided to remove from there the next day, and to go in search of some harbour or bay, where we might place our ships in safety: and we sailed with the maestrale wind,

[note 6: North-west] thus running along the coast with the land ever in sight, continually in our course observing people along the shore: till after having navigated for two days, we found a place sufficiently secure for the ships, and anchored half a league from land, on which we saw a very great number of people:

and this same day we put to land with the boats, and sprang on shore full 40 men in good trim: and still the land’s people appeared shy of converse with us, and we were unable to encourage them so much as to make them come to speak with us:

 and this day we laboured so greatly in giving them of our wares, such as rattles and mirrors, beads, spalline, and other trifles, that some of them took confidence and came to discourse with us:

and after having made good friends with them, the night coming on, we took our leave of them and returned to the ships:

 and the next day when the dawn appeared we saw that there were infinite numbers of people upon the beach, and they had their women and children with them: we went, ashore, and found that they were all laden with their worldly goods

 [note 7: Mantenimenti. The word “all” (tucte) is feminine, and probably refers only to the women.]

which are suchlike as, in its (proper) place, shall be related: and before we reached the land, many of them jumped into the sea and came swimming to receive us at a bowshot’s length (from the shore), for they are very great swimmers, with as much confidence as if they had for a long time been acquainted with us:

and we were pleased with this their confidence. For so much as we learned of their manner of life and customs, it was that they go entirely naked, as well the men as the women. . . . They are of medium stature, very well proportioned: their flesh is of a colour the verges into red like a lion’s mane: and I believe that if they went clothed, they would be as white as we: they have not any hair upon the body, except the hair of the head which is long and black, and especially in the women, whom it renders handsome: in aspect they are not very good-looking, because they have broad faces, so that they would seem Tartar-like:

 they let no hair grow on their eyebrows, nor on their eyelids, nor elsewhere, except the hair of the head: for they hold hairiness to be a filthy thing:

 

 

 

 

vespucci map

they are very light footed in walking and in running, as well the men as the women: so that a woman recks nothing of running a league or two, as many times we saw them do: and herein they have a very great advantage over us Christians:

 they swim (with an expertness) beyond all belief, and the women better than the men: for we have many times found and seen them swimming two leagues out at sea without anything to rest upon.

Their arms are bows and arrows very well made, save that (the arrows) are not (tipped) with iron nor any other kind of hard metal:

and instead of iron they put animals’ or fishes’ teeth, or a spike of tough wood, with the point hardened by fire:

 they are sure marksmen, for they hit whatever they aim at: and in some places the women use these bows: they have other weapons, such as fire-hardened spears, and also clubs with knobs, beautifully carved.

Warfare is used amongst them, which they carry on against people not of their own language, very cruelly, without granting life to any one, except (to reserve him) for greater suffering.

 When they go to war, they take their women with them, not that these may fight, but because they carry behind them their worldly goods, for a woman carries on her back for thirty or forty leagues a load which no man could bear:

as we have many times seen them do. They are not accustomed to have any Captain, nor do they go in any ordered array, for every one is lord of himself: and the cause of their wars is not for lust of dominion, nor of extending their frontiers, no for inordinate covetousness, but for some ancient enmity which in by-gone times arose amongst them: and when asked why they made war,

 

they knew not any other reason to give than that they did so to avenge the death of their ancestors, or of their parents: these people have neither King, nor Lord, nor do they yield obedience to any one,

for they live in their own liberty: and how they be stirred up to go to war is (this) that when the enemies have slain or captured any of them, his oldest kinsman rises up and goes about the highways haranguing them to go with him and avenge the death of such his kinsman:

 

and so are they stirred up by fellow-feeling: they have no judicial system, nor do they punish the ill-doer: nor does the father, nor the mother chastise the children and marvelously (seldom) or never did we see any dispute among them:

 in their conversation they appear simple, and they are very cunning and acute in that which concerns them: they speak little and in a low tone: they use the same articulations as we, since they form their utterances either with the palate, or with the teeth, or on the lips:

 [note 8:

 He means that they have no sounds in their language unknown to European organs of speech, all being either palatals or dentals of labials.] except that they give different names to things.

Many are the varieties of tongues: for in every 100 leagues we found a change of language, so that they are not understandable each to the other. The manner of their living is very barbarous, for they do not eat at certain hours, and as often-times as they will:

 and it is not much of a boon to them [note 9: I have translated “et non si da loro molto” as “it is not much of a boon to them,.” but may be “it matters not much to them.”]

that the will may come more at midnight than by day, for they eat at all hours: and they eat upon the ground without a table-cloth or any other cover, for they have their meats either in earthen basins which they make themselves, or in the halves of pumpkins:

they sleep in certain very large nettings made of cotton, suspended in the air: and although this their (fashion of) sleeping may seem uncomfortable, I say that it is sweet to sleep in those (nettings):

 and we slept better in them than in the counterpanes. They are a people smooth and clean of body, because of so continually washing themselves as they do. . .

Amongst those people we did not learn that they had any law, nor can they be called Moors nor Jews, and (they are) worse than pagans: because we did not observe that they offered any sacrifice:

nor even had they a house of prayer: their manner of living I judge to be Epicurean: their dwellings are in common: and their houses (are) made in the style of huts, but strongly made, and constructed with very large trees, and covered over with palm-leaves, secure against storms and winds: and in some places (they are) of so great breadth and length, that in one single house we found there were 600 souls:

 and we saw a village of only thirteen houses where there were four thousand souls: every eight or ten years they change their habitations: and when asked why they did so:

(they said it was) because of the soil which, from its filthiness, was already unhealthy and corrupted, and that it bred aches in their bodies, which seemed to us a good reason:

their riches consist of bird’s plumes of many colours, or of rosaries which they make from fishbones, or of white or green stones which they put in their cheeks and in their lips and ears, and of many other things which we in no wise value: they use no trade, they neither buy nor sell.

In fine, they live and are contended with that which nature gives them. The wealth that we enjoy in this our Europe and elsewhere, such as gold, jewels, pearls, and other riches, they hold as nothing;

and although they have them in their own lands, they do not labour to obtain them, nor do they value them. They are liberal in giving, for it is rarely they deny you anything: and on the other hand, liberal in asking, when they shew themselves your friends. . . .

When they die, they use divers manners of obsequies, and some they bury with water and victuals at their heads: thinking that they shall have (whereof) to eat:

they have not nor do they use ceremonies of torches nor of lamentation. In some other places, they use the most barbarous and inhuman burial, which is that when a suffering or infirm (person) is as it were at the last pass of death,

his kinsmen carry him into a large forest, and attach one of those nets, of theirs, in which they sleep, to two trees, and then put him in it, and dance around him for a whole day:

 and when the night comes on they place at his bolster, water with other victuals, so that he may be able to subsist for four or six days:

 and then they leave him alone and return to the village: and if the sick man helps himself, and eats, and drinks, and survives, he returns to the village, and his (friends) receive him with ceremony: but few are they who escape:

 without receiving any further visit they die, and that is their sepulture: and they have many other customs which for prolixity are not related. They use in their sicknesses various forms of medicines,

[note 10:

That is, “medical treatment.”] so different from ours that we marvelled how any one escaped: for many times I saw that with a man sick of fever, when it heightened upon him, they bathed him from head to foot with a large quantity of cold water:

then they lit a great fire around him, making him turn and turn again every two hours, until they tired him and left him to sleep, and many were (thus) cured:

 with this they make use of dieting, for they remain three days without eating, and also of blood-letting, but not from the arm, only from the thighs and the loins and the calf of the leg:

also they provoke vomiting with their herbs which are put into the mouth: and they use many other remedies which it would be long to relate: they are much vitiated in the phlegm and in the blood because of their food which consists chiefly of roots of herbs, and fruits and fish: they have no seed of wheat nor other grain:

and for their ordinary use and feeding, they have a root of a tree, from which they make flour, tolerably good, and they call it Iuca, and another which they call Cazabi, and another Ignami:

 

they eat little flesh except human flesh: for your Magnificence must know that herein they are so inhuman that they outdo every custom (even) of beasts; for they eat all their enemies whom they kill or capture, as well females as males with so much savagery, that (merely) to relate it appears a horrible thing: how much more so to see it, as, infinite times and in many places, it was my hap to see it:

and they wondered to hear us say that we did not eat our enemies: and this your Magnificence may take for certain, that their other barbarous customs are such that expression is too weak for the reality:

and as in these four voyages I have seen so many things diverse from our customs, I prepared to write a common-place-book which I name Le quattro Giornate: in which I have set down the greater part of the things which I saw, sufficiently in detail, so far as my feeble wit has allowed me:

which I have not yet published, because I have so ill a taste for my own things that I do not relish those which I have written, notwithstanding that many encourage me to publish it: therein everything will be seen in detail: so that I shall not enlarge further in this chapter:

 as in the course of the letter we shall come to many other things which are particular: let this suffice for the general.

At this beginning, we saw nothing in the land of much profit, except some show of gold:

I believe the cause of it was that we did not know the language: but in so far as concerns the situation and condition of the land, it could not be better: we decided to leave that place, and to go further on, continuously coasting the shore:

upon which we made frequent descents, and held converse with a great number of people: and at the end of some days we went into a harbour where we underwent very great danger:

and it pleased the Holy Ghost to save us: and it was in this wise. We landed in a harbour, where we found a village built like Venice upon the water: there were about 44 large dwellings in the form of huts erected upon very thick piles, and they had their doors or entrances in the style of drawbridges: and from each house one could pass through all, by means of the drawbridges which stretched from house to house:

 and when the people thereof had seen us, they appeared to be afraid of us, and immediately drew up all the bridges: and while we were looking at this strange action, we saw coming across the sea about 22 canoes, which are a kind of boats of theirs, constructed from a single tree:

 which came towards our boats, as they had been surprised by our appearance and clothes, and kept wide of us:

and thus remaining, we made signals to them that they should approach us, encouraging them will every token of friendliness: and seeing that they did not come, we went to them, and they did not stay for us, but made to the land, and, by signs, told us to wait, and that they should soon return: and they went to a hill in the background, and did not delay long: when they returned, they led with them 16 of their girls, and entered with these into their canoes, and came to the boats:

and in each boat they put 4 of the girls. That we marvelled at this behavior your Magnificence can imagine how much, and they placed themselves with their canoes among our boats, coming to speak with us: insomuch that we deemed it a mark of friendliness:

 and while thus engaged, we beheld a great number of people advance swimming towards us across the sea, who came from the houses: and as they were drawing near to us without any apprehension:

just then there appeared at the doors of the houses certain old women, uttering very loud cries and tearing their hair to exhibit grief: whereby they made us suspicious, and we each betook ourselves to arms: and instantly the girls whom we had in the boats, threw themselves into the sea, and the men of the canoes drew away from us, and began with their bows to shoot arrows at us:

and those who were swimming each carried a lance held, as covertly as they could, beneath the water:

so that, recognizing the treachery, we engaged with them, not merely to defend ourselves, but to attack them vigorously, and we overturned with our boats many of their almadie or canoes, for so they call them, we made a slaughter (of them), and they all flung themselves into the water to swim, leaving their canoes abandoned, with considerable loss on their side, they went swimming away to the shore:

 there died of them about 15 or 20, and many were left wounded: and of ours 5 were wounded, and all, by the grace of God, escaped (death): we captured two of the girls and two men:

and we proceeded to their houses, and entered therein, and in them all we found nothing else than two old women and a sick man: we took away from them many things, but of small value:

and we would not burn their houses, because it seemed to us (as though that would be) a burden upon our conscience:

and we returned to our boats with five prisoners: and betook ourselves to the ships, and put a pair of irons on the feet of each of the captives, except the little girls:

and when the night came on, the two girls and one of the men fled away in the most subtle manner possible:

and next day we decided to quit that harbour and go further onwards: we proceeded continuously skirting the coast, (until) we had sight of another tribe distant perhaps some 80 leagues from the former tribe: and we found them very different in speech and customs:

we resolved to cast anchor, and went ashore with the boats, and we saw on the beach a great number of people amounting probably to 4000 souls: and when we had reached the shore, they did not stay for us, but betook themselves to flight through the forests, abandoning their things: we jumped on land, and took a pathway that led to the forest:

and at the distance of a bow-shot we found their tents, where they had made very large fires, and two (of them) were cooking their victuals, and roasting several animals, and fish of many kinds:

where we saw that they were roasting a certain animal which seemed to be a serpent, save that it had not wings, and was in its appearance so loathsome that we marvelled much at its savageness:

Thus went we on through their houses, or rather tents, and found many of those serpents alive, and they were tied by the feet and had a cord around their snouts, so that they could not open their mouths, as is done (in Europe) with mastiff-dogs so that they may not bite:

 

they were of such savage aspect that none of us dared to take one away, thinking that they were poisonous: they are of the bigness of a kid, and in length an ell and a half:

[note 11:

This animal was the iguana.] their feet are long and thick, and armed with big claws: they have a hard skin, and are of various colours:

they have the muzzle and face of a serpent: and from their snouts there rises a crest like a saw which extends along the middle of the back as far as the tip of the tail: in fine we deemed them to be serpents and venomous, and (nevertheless, those people) ate them:

 we found that they made bread out of little fishes which they took from the sea, first boiling them, (then) pounding them, and making thereof a paste, or bread, and they baked them on the embers:

thus did they eat them: we tried it, and found that it was good: they had so many other kinds of eatables, and especially of fruits and roots, that it would be a large matter to describe them in detail: and seeing that the people did not return, we decided not to touch nor take away anything of theirs, so as better to reassure them:

and we left in the tents for them many of our things, placed where they should see them, and returned by night to our ships: and the next day, when it was light, we saw on the beach an infinite number of people:

and we landed: and although they appeared timorous towards us, they took courage nevertheless to hold converse with us, giving us whatever we asked of them: and shewing themselves very friendly towards us, they told us that those were their dwellings, and that they had come hither for the purpose of fishing:

and they begged that we would visit their dwellings and villages, because they desired to receive us as friends:

 and they engaged in such friendship because of the two captured men whom we had with us, as these were their enemies:

insomuch that, in view of such importunity on their part, holding a council, we determined that 28 of us Christians in good array should go with them, and in the firm resolve to die if it should be necessary:

and after we had been here some three days, we went with them inland:

and at three leagues from the coast we came to a village of many people and few houses, for there were no more than nine (of these):

where we were received with such and so many barbarous ceremonies that the pen suffices not to write them down: for there were dances, and songs, and lamentations mingled with rejoicing, and great quantities of food:

and here we remained the night: . . . and after having been here that night and half the next day, so great was the number of people who came wondering to behold us that they were beyond counting:

and the most aged begged us to go with them to other villages which were further inland, making display of doing us the greatest honour: wherefore we decided to go:

 and it would be impossible to tell you how much honour they did us: and we went to several villages, so that we were nine days journeying, so that our Christians who had remained with the ships were already apprehensive concerning us:

and when we were about 18 leagues in the interior of the land, we resolved to return to the ships:

 and on our way back, such was the number of people, as well men as women, that came with us as far as the sea, that it was a wondrous thing: and if any of us became weary of the march, they carried us in their nets very refreshingly:

and in crossing the rivers, which are many and very large, they passed us over by skilful means so securely that we ran no danger whatever, and many of them came laden with the things which they had given us, which consisted in their sleeping-nets, and very rich feathers, many bows and arrows, innumerable popinjays of divers colours: and others brought with them loads of their household goods, and of animals:

 but a greater marvel will I tell you, that, when we had to cross a river, he deemed himself lucky who was able to carry us on his back:

 and when we reached the sea, our boats having arrived, we entered into them: and so great was the struggle which they made to get into our boats, and to come to see our ships, that we marvelled (thereat):

 and in our boats we took as many of them as we could, and made our way to the ships, and so many (others) came swimming that we found ourselves embarrassed in seeing so many people in the ships, for there were over a thousand persons all naked and unarmed:

they were amazed by our (nautical) gear and contrivances, and the size of the ships:

 and with them there occurred to us a very laughable affair, which was that we decided to fire off some of our great guns, and when the explosion took place, most of them through fear cast themselves (into the sea) to swim, not otherwise than frogs on the margins of a pond, when they see something that frightens them, will jump into the water, just so did those people: and those who remained in the ships were so terrified that we regretted our action:

 however we reassured them by telling them that with those arms we slew our enemies: and when they had amused themselves in the ships the whole day, we told them to go away because we desired to depart that night, and so separating from us with much friendship and love, they went away to land.

Amongst that people and in their land, I knew and beheld so many of their customs and ways of living, that I do not care to enlarge upon them: for Your Magnificence must know that in each of my voyages I have noted the most wonderful things, and I have indited it all in a volume after the manner of a geography:

and I entitle it Le Quattro Giornate: in which work the things are comprised in detail, and as yet there is no copy of it given out, as it is necessary for me to revise it. This land is very populous, and full of inhabitants, and of numberless rivers, (and) animals:

few (of which) resemble ours, excepting lions, panthers, stags, pigs, goats, and deer: and even these have some dissimilarities of form:

 they have no horses nor mules, nor, saving your reverence, asses nor dogs, nor any kind of sheep or oxen:

but so numerous are the other animals which they have, and all are savage, and of none do they make use for their service, that they could not be counted.

What shall we say of others (such as) birds? which are so numerous, and of so many kinds, and of such various-coloured plumages, that it is a marvel to behold them.

 The soil is very pleasant and fruitful, full of immense woods and forests: and it is always green, for the foliage never drops off.

The fruits are so many that they are numberless and entirely different from ours.

This land is within the torrid zone, close to or just under the parallel described by the Tropic of Cancer:

 where the pole of the horizon has an elevation of 23 degrees, at the extremity of the second climate.

 [note 12:

 That is, 23 degrees north latitude.] Many tribes came to see us, and wondered at our faces and our whiteness:

 and they asked us whence we came:

 and we gave them to understand that we had come from heaven, and that we were going to see the world, and they believed it.

In this land we placed baptismal fonts, and an infinite (number of) people were baptised, and they called us in their language Carabi, which means men of great wisdom.

 We took our dhparture from that port:

and the province is called Lariab:

and we navigated along the coast, always in sight of land, until we had run 870 leagues of it, still going in the direction of the maestrale (north-west) making in our course many halts, and holding intercourse with many peoples:

 and in several places we obtained gold by barter but not much in quantity, for we had done enough in discovering the land and learning that they had gold. We had now been thirteen months on the voyage:

and the vessels and the tackling were already much damaged, and the men worn out by fatigue:

we decided by general council to haul our ships on land and examine them for the purpose of stanching leaks, as they made much water, and of caulking and tarring them afresh, and (then) returning towards Spain:

and when we came to this determination, we were close to a harbour the best in the world:

into which we entered with our vessels: where we found an immense number of people: who received us with much friendliness: and on the shore we made a bastion

 [note 13: Fort or barricade]

with our boats and with barrels and casks, and our artillery, which commanded every point:

and our ships having been unloaded and lightened, we drew them upon land, and repaired them in everything that was needful:

and the land’s people gave us very great assistance: and continually furnished us with their victuals: so that in this port we tasted little of our own, which suited our game well:

for the stock of provisions which we had for our return-passage was little and of sorry kind: where (i.e., there) we remained 37 days: and went many times to their villages: where they paid us the greatest honour:

and (now) desiring to depart upon our voyage, they made complaint to us how at certain times of the year there came from over the sea to this their land, a race of people very cruel, and enemies of theirs:

and (who) by means of treachery or of violence slew many of them, and ate them: and some they made captives, and carried them away to their houses, or country:

 and how they could scarcely contrive to defend themselves from them, making signs to us that (those) were an island-people and lived out in the sea about a hundred leagues away:

and so piteously did they tell us this that we believed them: and we promised to avenge them of so much wrong:

 

and they remained overjoyed herewith: and many of them offered to come along with us, but we did not wish to take them for many reasons, save that we took seven of them, on condition that they should come (i.e., return home) afterwards in (their own) canoes because we did not desire to be obliged to take them back to their country:

and they were contented:

and so we departed from those people, leaving them very friendly towards us: and having repaired our ships, and sailing for seven days out to sea between northeast and east:

and at the end of the seven days we came upon the islands, which were many, some (of them) inhabited, and others deserted: and we anchored at one of them: where we saw a numerous people who called it Iti:

and having manned our boats with strong crews, and (taken ammunition for) three cannon shots in each, we made for land: where we found (assembled) about 400 men, and many women, and all naked like the former (peoples).

They were of good bodily presence, and seemed right warlike men: for they were armed with their weapons, which are bows, arrows, and lances: and most of them had square wooden targets:

and bore them in such wise that they did not impede the drawing of the bow: and when we had come with our boats to about a bowshot of the land, they all sprang into the water to shoot their arrows at us and to prevent us from leaping upon shore:

and they all had their bodies painted of various colours, and (were) plumed with feathers: and the interpreters who were with us told us that when (those) displayed themselves so painted and plumed, it was to betoken that they wanted to fight:

 and so much did they persist in preventing us from landing, that we were compelled to play with our artillery: and when they heard the explosion, and saw one of them fall dead, they all drew back to the land:

wherefore, forming our council, we resolved that 42 of our men should spring on shore, and, if they waited for us, fight them:

 

thus having leaped to land with our weapons, they advanced towards us, and we fought for about an hour, for we had but little advantage of them, except that our arbalasters and gunners killed some of them, and they wounded certain of our men:

and this was because they did not stand to receive us within reach of lance-thrust or sword-blow:

and so much vigour did we put forth at last, that we came to sword-play, and when they tasted our weapons, they betook themselves to flight through the mountains and the forests, and left us conquerors of the field with many of them dead and a good number wounded: and for that day we’ took no other pains to pursue them, because we were very weary, and we returned to our ships, with so much gladness on the part of the seven men who had come with us that they could not contain themselves (for joy):

and when the next day arrived,

 we beheld coming across the land a great number of people, with signals of battle, continually sounding horns, and various other instruments which they use in their wars: and all (of them) painted and feathered, so that it was a very strange sight to behold them:

wherefore all the ships held council, and it was resolved that since this people desired hostility with us, we should proceed to encounter them and try by every means to make them friends:

in case they would not have our friendship, that we should treat them as foes, and so many of them as we might be able to capture should all be our slaves: and having armed ourselves as best we could, we advanced towards the shore, and they sought not to hinder us from landing, I believe from fear of the cannons: and we jumped on land, 57 men in four squadrons, each one (consisting of) a captain and his company:

and we came to blows with them: and after a long battle (in which) many of them (were) slain, we put them to flight, and pursued them to a village, having made about 250 of them captives, and we burnt the village, and returned to our ships with victory and 250 prisoners, leaving many of them dead and wounded, and of ours there were no more than one killed and 22 wounded, who all escaped (i.e., recovered), God be thanked.

 

 

We arranged our departure, and seven men, of whom five were wounded, took an island-canoe, and with seven prisoners that we gave them, four women and three men, returned to their (own) country full of gladness, wondering at our strength: and we thereon made sail for Spain with 222 captive slaves: and reached the port of Calis (Cadiz)

 

on the 15th day of October, 1498,

 where we were well received and sold our slaves. Such is what befell me, most noteworthy, in this my first voyage.

Source:

Translation from Vespucci’s Italian, published at Florence in 1505-6, by “M. K.”, for Quaritch’s edition, London, 1885.

1497

Some great historians like German Arciniegas and Gabriel Camargo Perez think that his first voyage was done in June 1497 with the Spanish Juan de la Cosa.

1497

According to great and famous historians like Martin Fernandez de Navarrete, Germàn Arciniegas and Gabriel Camargo Perez, the first voyage of Amerigo Vespucci took place in 1497, probably in a trip organized by the King Ferdinando, who wanted to clarify if the main land was far away from the Hispaniola Island discovered by the Genoese Christopher Columbus.

 

The captain of this trip that sailed in May 1497 was possibly Juan Dias the Solis. With Vespucci, there was pilot and cartographer Juan de la Cosa (the then-famous captain who had sailed with Columbus in 1492).

 According to the first letter of Amerigo Vespucci, they landed in a main land at the 16 degrees latitude, probably the coast of La Guajira peninsula in present Colombia or the coast of Nicaragua.

Then they were following the coastal land mass of central America, and they returned to the Atlantic Ocean, crossing the strait of Florida between Florida and Cuba. In his letters, Amerigo Vespucci described this trip, and once Juan de la Cosa returned to Spain, so did the famous world map in which Cuba is represented like an island.

. 1499-1500

In about 1499–1500, Vespucci joined an expedition in the service of Spain, with Alonso de Ojeda (or Hojeda) as the fleet commander. The intention was to sail around the southern end of the African mainland into the Indian Ocean.[2] After hitting land at the coast of what is now Guyana, the two seem to have separated. Vespucci sailed southward, discovering the mouth of the Amazon River and reaching 6°S, before turning around and seeing Trinidad and the Orinoco River and returning to Spain by way of Hispaniola. The letter, to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, claims that Vespucci determined his longitude celestially

 [3] on August 23, 1499,

while on this voyage. However, that claim might be fraudulent,[3] which could cast doubt on the letter’s credibility

[1] In the 18th century three unpublished “familiar” letters from vdVespucci to Lorenzo de’ Medici were rediscovered.

 One describes a voyage made in 1499-1500 which corresponds with the second of the “four voyages

 

Amerigo Vespucci (March 9, 1454 -February 22, 1512) was an Italian merchant, explorer and cartographer.

1499-1502

 He played a senior role in two voyages which explored the east coast of South America between 1499 and 1502.

On the second of these voyages he discovered that South America extended much further south than previously known by Europeans. This convinced him that this land was part of a new continent, a bold contention at a time when other European explorers crossing the Atlantic thought they were reaching Asia (the “Indies”).

1501-1502

It describes a voyage to South America in 1501-1502.

Mundus Novus was published in late 1502 or early 1503 and soon reprinted and distributed in numerous European countries.[1] Lettera di Amerigo Vespucci delle isole nuovamente trovate in quattro suoi viaggi (“Letter of Amerigo Vespucci concerning the isles newly discovered on his four voyages”), known as Lettera al Soderini or just Lettera, was a letter in Italian addressed to Piero Soderini. Printed in 1504 or 1505, it claimed to be an account of four voyages to the Americas made by Vespucci between 1497 and 1504.

 

1501

Another was written from Cape Verde in 1501

 in the early part of the third of the “four voyages”, before crossing the Atlantic. The third letter was sent from Lisbon after the completion of that voyage.`

[1] Some have suggested that Vespucci, in the two letters published in his lifetime, was exaggerating his role and constructed deliberate fabrications. However, many scholars now believe that the two letters were not written by him but were fabrications by others based in part on genuine letters by Vespucci.

1501-1502

His last certain voyage was one led by Gonçalo Coelho in 1501–1502 in the service of Portugal. Departing from Lisbon, the fleet sailed first to Cape Verde where they met two of Pedro Álvares Cabral’s ships returning from India. In a letter from Cape Verde, Vespucci says that he hopes to visit the same lands that Álvares Cabral had explored, suggesting that the intention is to sail west to Asia, as on the 1499-1500 voyage.

 

[2] On reaching the coast of Brazil, they sailed south along the coast of South America to Rio de Janeiro’s bay. If his own account is to be believed, he reached the latitude of Patagonia before turning back; although this also seems doubtful, since his account does not mention the broad estuary of the Río de la Plata, which he must have seen if he had gotten that far south. Portuguese maps of South America, created after the voyage of Coelho and Vespucci, do not show any land south of present-day Cananéia at 25º S, so this may represent the southernmost extent of their voyages.

During the first half of this expedition in 1501,

 Vespucci mapped the two stars, Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri as well as the stars of the constellation Crux.

[3] Although these stars were known to the ancient Greeks, gradual precession had lowered them below the European skyline so that they were forgotten

.[4] On return to Lisbon,

 Vespucci wrote in a letter to de’ Medici that the land masses they explored were much larger than anticipated and different from the Asia described by earlier Europeans and, therefore, must be a New World, that is, a previously unknown fourth continent, after Europe, Asia, and Africa.

 

1502

Vespucci’s voyages became widely known in Europe after two accounts attributed to him were published between 1502 and 1504

1503

 

Little is known of his last voyage in 1503–1504 or even whether it actually took place. Vespucci’s real historical importance may well be more in his letters, whether he wrote them all or not, than in his discoveries. From these letters, the European public learned about the newly discovered continent of the Americas for the first time; its existence became generally known throughout Europe within a few years of the letters’ publication.

 

Verpucci attack natives

 

 [1] In 1507,

Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the new continent “America” after Vespucci’s first name, Amerigo.

In an accompanying book, Waldseemüller published one of the Vespucci accounts, which led to criticism that Vespucci was trying to usurp Christopher Columbus’s glory.

However, the rediscovery in the 18th century of other letters by Vespucci has led to the view that the early published accounts were fabrications, not by Vespucci, but by others.
 
          Vespucci was born in Florence, as the third child of a respected family. His father was a notary for the Money Changers’ Guild of Florence. Amerigo Vespucci worked for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici and his brother Giovanni and in 1492 they sent him to work at their agency in Seville, Spain.

 

 

1507

 It was the publication and widespread circulation of the letters that led Martin Waldseemüller to name the new continent America on his world map of 1507 in Lorraine.

Vespucci used a Latinised form of his name, Americus Vespucius, in his Latin writings, which Waldseemüller used as a base for the new name, taking the feminine form America.

 (See also Naming of America.)

Amerigo itself is an Italian form of the medieval Latin Emericus (see also Saint Emeric of Hungary), which through the German form Heinrich (in English, Henry) derived from the Germanic name Haimirich.

The two disputed letters claim that Vespucci made four voyages to America, while at most two can be verified from other sources. at the moment there is a dispute between historians on when Vespucci visited main land the first time.

1507

A Latin translation was published by the German Martin Waldseemüller in 1507 in Cosmographiae Introductio, a book on cosmography and geography, as Quattuor Americi Vespuccij navigationes (“Four Voyages of Amerigo Vespucci”).

“.

 

1508

   

 

 In 1508,

 after only two voyages to the Americas, the position of pilot major (chief of navigation) of Spain was created for Vespucci, with the responsibility of training pilots for ocean voyages.

.

1512

 He died of malaria on the date February 22, 1512 in Seville, Spain.

Two letters attributed to Vespucci were published during his lifetime. Mundus Novus (“New World”) was a Latin translation of a lost Italian letter sent from Lisbon to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici.


 

Returning home in 1512,

 he took part in the Portuguese expedition to Marocco and was severely wounded, leaving him lame for life. Feeling he was not sufficiently rewarded for his services, Magellan left the army without permission, leading to his disgrace with the king.

 

1513

In 1513, Vasco de Balboa had found an ocean on the far side of the New World discovered by Christopher Columbus. Magellan proposed to the Spanish king an expedition to find a passage through the New World to this ocean and to sail west to the Moluccas, thus proving that the Spice Islands lay on the Spanish side of the line of demarcation. King Charles approved the plan.

 Magellan took the oath of allegiance in the church of Santa Maria de la Victoria de Triana in Seville, and received the imperial standard.

He also gave a large sum of money to the monks of the monastery in order that they might pray for the success of the expedition.

 

1517

He gave up his nationality and offered his services to King Charles I (later Holy Roman Emperor Charles V), ruler of Spain in 1517

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stamps Of Amerigo Verpucci Centenary

 

italy


                               
Italian stamp of Magellan

 

AMERIGO VESPUCCI DISCOVERY OF AMERICA ITALY 1974 Sc 665-666

 POST OFFICE FOLDER

 

 

 

ITALY – CIRCA 1931: a stamp printed in the Italy shows Training Ship Amerigo Vespucci, 50th Anniversary of Royal Naval Academy at Livorno, circa 1931

anguilla

 

Belgie

 

France

 

 

 

 


 Named after Amerigo Vespucci :

Amerigo Vespucci Airport, Florence, Italy
Amerigo Vespucci (ship), an Italian tall ship
The Americas, geographic region including the continents of South America and North America


 See also
Naming of America

 Notes
Formisano, Luciano (Ed.) (1992). Letters from a New World: Amerigo Vespucci’s Discovery of America. New York: Marsilio. ISBN 0-941419-62-2. Pp. xix-xxvi.
 
” On a clear night with calm seas, stars could be identified near the horizon to judge latitude/longitude celestially. Although South America’s continental shelf drops quickly into the deep ocean beyond the Orinoco River, the mouth is on the shelf, avoiding the ocean swells and waves which hinder visibility of stars near the horizon. Seamen who could navigate from Europe to America and back could chart stars on the horizon, especially for a cartographer like Vespucci. ”

 References
Amerigo: the Man Who Gave His Name to America by Fernández-Armesto, Felipe; Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Archaeologist has found evidence of De Soto’s expedition

Ethan White, 15, left, uses a screen to sift sand at the circa 1606-1608 San Buenaventura de Potano Spanish mission location at his familyís property in north Marion County while his father, archaeologist Ashley White, feeds sand from one of the many excavation holes at the site, which includes a nearby area where Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto camped in August 1539.
Doug Engle/ Ocala Star-Banner
By FRED HIERS
Ocala Star-Banner
Published: Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 7:56 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 7:56 a.m.

Hernando De Soto’s route through Florida is as elusive to modern archaeologists as the gold the famed Spanish explorer sought throughout the southeastern United States.

Ever since De Soto’s 600 men set foot on the shores of Tampa Bay, arriving from Cuba almost 500 years ago, historians have debated the exact direction of his failed treasure-hunting expeditions as far north as Tennessee and North Carolina.

But in north Marion County, an archaeologist has found what his contemporaries deem rarer than the gold De Soto was seeking — physical evidence of the explorer’s precise journey through Marion County and enough information to redraw Florida De Soto maps and fuel many more archaeological digs based on his findings.

“It gets rid of the guesswork now on the route through Marion County,” said Ashley White, a local archaeologist who found the site. “Now, we know for sure he came up through the Black Sink Prairie to Orange Lake and looped around through Micanopy.”

From the De Soto site, which sits on the one-time Indian town known as Potano, De Soto eventually marched to Utinamocharra in present day Gainesville and later to Tallahassee for the winter.

Archaeologists who study Spain’s settlement of Florida and De Soto’s exploration into the Southeast United States, regard White’s find as priceless and have little doubt as to the site’s authenticity.

“I looked at the archaeological evidence. There is absolutely no doubt that is a De Soto contact site, and I am 99.99 percent sure this is the town of Potano, the major Indian town,” said Jerald Milanich, the author of multiple books about De Soto’s expedition and curator emeritus in archaeology of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida.

“Until now, we really had no one location until all the way up to Tallahassee. Now we have a midway place.”

LUCKY FIND

White’s initial discovery was less a product of painstaking exploration than dumb luck.

Historians before White had dug thousands of pits into Florida’s backwoods and sifted tons of dirt in hopes of finding artifacts linked to the explorer, without success. The only confirmed De Soto site in Florida is in Tallahassee, where De Soto’s men wintered for five months.

White himself had walked his family’s property for two years looking for remnants of what he thought was a 17th century Spanish cattle ranch. He found little more than Indian artifacts.

Then in 2005, a series of hurricanes and storms inundated the 700-acre property owned by his wife, Michelle White, a bioarchaeologist.

“There is a lot of drainage (on the ranch) … and all this sand broke loose and we had artifacts just lying on top of the ground,” Ashley White said.

One was a coin minted before De Soto’s 1539 expedition. It was in a clump of pines near Black Sink Prairie.

At the time, however, White’s attention was riveted on the remains of a 16th century structure he discovered a couple of hundred yards away.

That structure turned out to be the mission of San Buenaventura de Potano, which was established some years after De Soto came through. There, White’s family found copper coins of the era and brown streaks from what remained of the posts that anchored the church. It was enough to make him put the other site on the back burner.

White didn’t know it at the time, but the first site was what other historians had been looking for: physical evidence of De Soto’s exploration.

Meanwhile, the second site yielded its own archaeological treasure trove — about 100 medieval coins, the largest cache from that era in North America.

“Still, the original thought was that it was a Spanish ranch outpost, and that was our hypothesis for probably two years of the work here,” White said. “(The De Soto) trail, it’s not the first thing on your mind in Central Florida archaeology.”

White’s hypothesis began to change as he examined the scant remains of the building and nearby artifacts and realized they shared similar architectural characteristics with other Florida mission buildings along Indian trails. Among those artifacts were colorful, handmade glass beads from the late 16th century, coins, pieces of pottery and nails.

Gifford Waters, historical archaeology collections manager of the Florida Museum of Natural History and an expert on Spanish missions, said finding the mission remains so close to the De Soto site reinforces the legitimacy of White’s discovery.

Missionaries would have used De Soto’s records to establish their churches along Indian trails and towns, Waters said.

“This (the De Soto site) is an extremely important site, historically and archaeologically,” he said.

With some more archaeology, the White site “will be accepted as strongly as the Martin site in Tallahassee,” Waters said. “It helps us to learn more about the Spanish expedition, but also more about the Indians.”

 

PIECES OF THE PAST

When White returned to his first site, where he found the oldest coin, he found two more coins. Both were minted before De Soto’s Florida exploration began and were much older than those at the mission site. He also found glass beads, made near present day Venice, Italy, that were more complex and older than those found at the mission site.

Then White found a few links of iron chain mail from Spain, with designs De Soto’s men would have woven onto their garments to protect them from Indian spears and arrows. The way the chain mail was linked predated the mission.

He also unearthed a pig jaw, unique to the domesticated herd of European animals De Soto brought to help feed his men.

There had been other Spanish explorers, such as Panfilo de Narvaez, but they had not brought old world pigs, nor had they traveled as far inland.

Other archaeologists such as Milanich say the collection of artifacts represented a town on the move.

In their book, Milanich and archaeologist Charles Hudson had laid historical groundwork for the De Soto site more than 20 years ago. They attempted to map De Soto’s trail based on written records and artifacts. Hudson is a professor of anthropology and history emeritus at the University of Georgia and author of many books on the history and culture of the Indians of the Southeast.

Those written records, which include at least three accounts written at the time by men who traveled with De Soto, put the explorer at the White site beginning on Aug. 11, 1539, and for the next three weeks.

Thousands of Potano Indians lived in the town and along lakes and rivers up into present day Alachua County. The Potano Indians were a subset of the Timucua Indians who called North Central Florida home.

Milanich based some of his theories about De Soto’s routes on Indian trails, many of which became modern highways and railroads.

“And we knew the trails led to Indian towns and knew De Soto in 1539 traveled on the Indian trails to get food and looking for wealth,” Milanich said.

But the written records of those who traveled with De Soto were difficult to decipher. Geographical locations recorded hundreds of years ago using only descriptions of marshes, rivers and wetlands left many archaeologists like Milanich uncertain.

“As an archaeologist, I’d like to tell you we know everything, but we don’t. We just have bits and scraps of information,” he said.

UNEARTHING STORIES

Like bread crumbs marking a trail, archaeologists have to depend on things explorers left behind, such as the beads and coins.

“Like other Spanish explorers, the De Soto expedition brought trade goods they could give to the Indians to get them to be their friends, to pay them off, to provide bearers to carry their supplies, to get food and even get women, to get consorts,” Milanich said.

It was that search for food that drove De Soto to White’s location in 1539.

“Food was always a problem. If you’re not eating, forget it,” Milanich said. “And it was a huge operation going through central Marion County.”

Unsure when winter would begin in Florida, De Soto was looking for a town to occupy with enough food to feed his troops.

Potano likely had a central communal wooden building, a plaza, a chief’s home and several huts where other Indians lived.

But De Soto and the Indians didn’t always coexist peacefully.

The Spaniard plundered towns that didn’t cooperate and killed Indians who refused to help, often in a spectacle that served as a warning to other Indians.

The Europeans also exposed the indigenous people to diseases against which they had no immunity. Thirty years later, when the French met the Potano, the population had plummeted from as many as 30,000 to about 3,000 people.

Most of the Indians were happy to see De Soto leave, urging him on with tales of gold to the north, Milanich said. As soon as a route was staked out, De Soto sent word to his men scattered in a long trail behind him to follow.

In 1539, the Indians rebelled against De Soto’s brutality and the diseases his expedition spread. They killed De Soto’s men when they could get away with it as the Spaniards marched north. Captured Indian guides made the exploration as difficult as possible, sending the Spaniards wandering aimlessly in the hot, humid Florida summer.

De Soto finally marched to Tallahassee and wintered there into 1540.

“De Soto makes it all the way into Arkansas and they spend the next year running around looking for gold. There is none. There is no wealth,” Milanich said.

“He had invested his fortune, his reputation and that of his family and his relatives and everything else. So he must have felt he couldn’t get out at the time. He couldn’t give up,” Milanich said.

De Soto died in 1542 on the banks of the Mississippi and was interred in those waters.

Sixty-four years after his death, the Spanish built the mission of San Buenaventura de Potano just across a creek from White’s De Soto site.

“The discovery of the (Potano) site is really a beginning, not an end,” Milanich said. “The start of a lot more research, of learning about the area. It helps us to understand what things were like on a summer day in 1539, and I’m sure it’s very exciting for people to realize that they had a very important bit of history right in their own backyard.”
SOURCE :NEWSCHIEF WEB BLOG

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