Thank you for letting me come today. Now, as I go through some of these slides, I want to offer you folks in the back another opportunity to move to a better spot if you want to see the details more clearly. Feel free to get up and move at any moment.

I’m going to talk pretty fast because there are a lot of things I want to cover. I’ve done presentations like this for school kids and other public education programs many times. A big part of what I try to do is dispel stereotypes, especially with younger kids, school teachers, and people in the community who think they know a lot about Native American history but really don’t.

Today, I’m going to talk about a significant period in history when the Spanish came to North Georgia and how everything changed dramatically. This 16th-century period is crucial because, in archaeology, if we can understand where the villages mentioned in diaries were located and what the pottery and cultural pieces associated with these villages look like, we can trace back in time to around 1000 AD. This helps us understand the geographic areas controlled by different political groups and the extent of their influence.

The arrival of the Spanish brought about a massive collapse due to diseases like mumps, measles, and chickenpox, which wiped out 90 to 95% of the population. Understanding this period helps us see how the Cherokee became who they are today, as part of the small percentage that survived after this collapse.

This picture here shows the moment Hernando DeSoto arrived at Kusa, now known to be just a few miles from here. It was the seat of power for the Kusa chieftain and a significant moment in DeSoto’s expedition. DeSoto thought he would find the gold he was seeking in this powerful province.

DeSoto started his career in Nicaragua under his father-in-law, a brutal leader who enslaved the local populations. He then became the number two on the expedition in Peru, which was also marked by brutal treatment of the native people. With the wealth gained from these expeditions, DeSoto decided to lead his own expedition, taking around 620 people, including many civilians seeking their fortune.

The expedition started in Havana, Cuba, where they assembled their horses and pigs (their emergency food supply). They made their way through Florida, Georgia, and into the Carolinas, constantly moving and terrorizing the local populations to extract information and resources.

DeSoto traveled overland, using wide Indian trails rather than waterways. His journey took him through various villages, gathering information and leaving a trail of destruction. His ultimate goal was to find Kusa, where he believed he would find significant wealth.

Here, I’ll show you what the landscape looked like during DeSoto’s expedition. The river systems were major highways for native people, and the trails were wide enough for horses and even pigs. These trails were not jungle paths but well-traveled routes.

Indigenous people had been living in this area for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence shows a progression from the Paleo-Indian period through the Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian periods. The Mississippian period, around 1000 AD to 1600 AD, is when DeSoto came through, characterized by large mound-building cultures with complex political systems and agriculture.

This slide shows some of the major population centers in Georgia during the Mississippian period. Large villages and mound complexes were spread throughout the region, indicating sophisticated and organized societies.

In the 16th century, the Kusa province was a powerful entity. The arrival of DeSoto at Kusa marked a significant encounter between European and Native American cultures. The chief of Kusa greeted DeSoto with great ceremony, reflecting the importance and power of the Kusa people.

DeSoto’s expedition left a lasting impact on the native populations, not only through direct violence but also through the introduction of diseases that decimated the population. The archaeological evidence, including artifacts and the remains of villages, helps us piece together the story of this encounter and its consequences.

The sites we’ve excavated provide a wealth of information about the native cultures before, during, and after DeSoto’s expedition. For example, the burned remains of houses give us insight into construction techniques and daily life. The artifacts, such as pottery and tools, tell us about trade and cultural practices.

One significant find was a piece of a copper plate with engravings, believed to be from a book cover or religious artifact. This plate, found in Georgia, connects to the larger story of Spanish exploration and its impact on native societies.

The story of DeSoto and his interactions with the Kusa and other native peoples is a complex one, involving brutality, cultural exchanges, and profound changes to the native way of life. The archaeological record helps us understand these events in detail, shedding light on a pivotal moment in history.

Thank you for listening, and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

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James Langford – Come Crashing Down

Thank you for letting me come today. Now, as I go through some of these slides, I want to offer you folks in the back another opportunity to move to a better spot if you want to see the details more clearly. Feel free to get up and move at

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