Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Hot Links

Archaeologists working in Nebraska have excavated sherds of European ceramics in an 18th century Indian site that they believe may be evidence of the ill-fated Villasur Expedition. In the early 1700s, French traders from Louisiana began to expand their activities west across the Plains into what Spain considered to be its territory. In the summer of 1720, the Spanish governor of New Mexico sent an expedition under Lt General Pedro de Villasur northeast from Santa Fe to apprehend the traders or at least to gather intelligence about their activities.

 Villasur's command was quite small, about 40 Spanish soldiers, 60-70 Pueblo Indian allies, and 10 Apache scouts. Villasur made contact with members of the Pawnee and Oto tribes near the confluence of the Loup and Platte Rivers in western Nebraska. He attempted to negotiate with them, but his force was wiped out in a surprise attack by the tribes, apparently aided by French agents. There is a contemporary painting of the battle made on buffalo hides exhibited in the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe. I show a copy of part of it above - I have always found it quite haunting.

No one knows precisely where the site of the battle is located, but these researchers believe these ceramics may represent loot obtained by victors of the fight.

Paleontologists working in the Netherlands have examined skeletons of Late Pleistocene mammoths from the North Sea area and found that many have an extra rib. They interpret this genetic anomaly as a sign of inbreeding and stress on the mammoth population that indicate signs of their eventual path to extinction.

We all learned from history that the great plague of the Black Death in 14th century England was spread by fleas carried by rats, right? Not so fast. Plague DNA extracted from skeletons in graves excavated in London shows that  it was more likely an airborne illness spread through coughs and sneezes.

I have posted here before about the great prehistoric Mississippian capital of Cahokia. Archaeologists working there have used analysis of strontium isotope ratios from burials there, to show that about a third of the people who lived there had grown up somewhere else. This provides more confirmation of the theory that the site was a regional "melting pot" pulling in population from all over the south and midwest.


Chas Clifton said...

Fascinating story, Reid. I wonder if Villasur's expedition stopped at El Cuartelejo on the way north.

Reid Farmer said...

Wikipedia article on El Cuartelejo says they did, but I don't know if I should believe it. I will dig around and see what I can find.

Old colleague of mine, Richard Carillo, named his CRM company Cuartelejo HP Associates.

Connie & I are going to the Society for American Archaeology meetings in Austin in a couple of weeks. I was just reviewing the abstracts and saw that there is a paper on the Segesser Hide Paintings of the battle. Plan on catching that one.