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Indigenous Georgia and Franciscan Survivance at Mission Santa Catalina de Guale 1570-1680

David Hurst Thomas
Dr. David Hurst Thomas
American Museum of Natural History
Russell Special Collections Library Room 271

Indigenous Guale Indians first greeted Jesuit missionaries to the Georgia coast in 1566, but their missionary effort there was spectacularly unsuccessful. Franciscans arrived a decade later and worked with Guale leaders to establish Mission Santa Catalina as Spain’s northern outpost along the eastern seaboard. The mission was overrun and destroyed in 1680 by raiders from South Carolina.

For three centuries, Georgians searched unsuccessfully for the ruins of Mission Santa Catalina de Guale, until our team of archaeologists found the long-lost mission site on St. Catherines Island. In recognition of the mission’s unique history, the Bishop of Savannah has formally reconsecrated this archaeological mission site as an active church in the Savannah Diocese.

In this illustrated talk, Dr. David Hurst Thomas will describe our five-year-long search for the buried mission site, our three decades of archaeological excavations and the surprising stories of survivance and survival that have emerged from Georgia’s oldest church. The lecture will be followed by light refreshments in the exhibition hallway.

Dr. David Hurst Thomas has served as Curator of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History since 1972. A specialist in Native American archaeology, he holds four degrees from the University of California, Davis (Ph.D., 1971) and a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) from The University of the South (conferred 1995). In 1970, he discovered Gatecliff Shelter (Nevada), the deepest archaeological rockshelter in the Americas. Thomas also found and continues to excavate the 16th-/17th-century Franciscan mission Santa Catalina de Guale (St. Catherines Island, Georgia); he also led five excavation seasons at Mission San Marcos, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

David Hurst Thomas (394.27 KB)

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