The University of West Florida has won a national archaeology award for its work unearthing Tristan de Luna’s 1559 settlement in Pensacola — the first multi-year European settlement in the present-day United States — and three associated shipwrecks.

The Society for Historical Archaeology recently presented UWF’s Division of Anthropology and Archaeology with the 2018 Daniel G. Roberts Award for Excellence in Public Historical Archaeology. Formed in 1967, the SHA is the largest scholarly group concerned with the archaeology of the modern world. The award was presented at the society’s annual meeting, held earlier this month in New Orleans.

This olive jar and plate fragment are among the artifacts UWF archaeologists have recovered from the Luna settlement site. (University of West Florida/Special to The Pulse)

UWF archaeologists discovered two shipwrecks associated with Luna’s 1559 settlement in 1992 and 2006. In December 2015, the UWF archaeology program identified the location of Luna’s land settlement near Pensacola Bay, and in June 2016, the team discovered a third shipwreck.

“Our Luna Project team has been working for several decades, first on the shipwrecks and recently on the settlement, to explore archaeological traces of Luna’s ships and colonists,” said Dr. Elizabeth Benchley, director of the Division of Anthropology and Archaeology and the Archaeology Institute. “From the beginning, we have reached out to Pensacolians to share our findings through lectures, websites, tours, and hands on opportunities, as we piece together this important story. We are indebted to the support and interest from the community, and especially the Luna neighbors who have allowed us to excavate in their yards. We are very honored to receive this prestigious award for Excellence in Public Historical Archaeology from the Society for Historical Archaeology.”

UWF archaeology students conduct field work at the Luna settlement site in 2015. (University of West Florida/Special to The Pulse)

The Roberts Award, one of SHA’s top four annual honors, was established to recognize and honor Daniel G. Roberts, a pioneer in public historical archaeology. The award recognizes outstanding, sustained accomplishments in public historical archaeology by individuals, educational institutions, for-profit or non-profit firms or organizations, museums, government agencies, and private sponsors.

Luna’s settlement in Pensacola predates the Spanish settlement in St. Augustine, Fla. by six years, and the English settlement in Jamestown, Va. by 48 years. Just a month after Luna arrived, the settlement was devastated by a hurricane which sunk six of the ships anchored offshore, resulting in the loss of much of the colonists’ supplies. After a two-year struggle to establish the settlement, Luna and his remaining settlers were evacuated to Mexico.


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