Could Mabila be in Marengo County?

UWA archeological group has discovered Spanish artifacts and 143 Native American farmstead sites

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UWA’s Dr. Ashley Dumas works in an excavation pit (above) in Marengo County. Dr. Charles Cobb (left) of the Florida Museum of Natural History beams moments after discovering a 16th century iron chisel. (UWA Photos)

UWA’s Dr. Ashley Dumas works in an excavation pit (above) in Marengo County. Dr. Charles Cobb (left) of the Florida Museum of Natural History beams moments after discovering a 16th century iron chisel. (UWA Photos)

For the 1540 Battle of Mabila to be so historic and well known, its location has forever eluded archeologists and historians despite the intense searches for it.

The Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto was making a trek across the Southeast when he encountered Indian Chief Tuskaloosa and the Mabila tribe. Confrontations escalated into a fierce battle in the capital town of Mabila in Mabila Province.

As many as 2,500 Native Americans died in the battle. Far fewer Spaniards died but they lost precious supplies that crippled the future of their expedition.

Many historians have long placed Mabila in the southern end of Clarke County, in the fork of the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers. However, searches and excavations have failed to yield the site.

Caleb Curren, an archeologist from Northwest Florida, has done work in the lower Clarke County area for decades without success.

Now, Dr. Ashley Dumas from the University of West Alabama along with a team of archeologists, UWA students and volunteers, working in Marengo County, have found and confirmed 52 pieces of Spanish-made metal such as horseshoe remnants and iron chisels repurposed from the metal bands of wooden barrels.

 

 

Dr. Charles Cobb, professor of historical archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History who has extensive experience researching 16th-century Spanish metal remnants unearthed in Mississippi, was instrumental in the project’s recovering and identifying of the Marengo County metal artifacts, Dumas said.

The metal artifacts will undergo elemental analyses for comparison to 16thcentury pieces already proven to have come from Spain, Dumas said.

Numerous Indian pottery sherds have been located as well.

While these discoveries do not indicate the location of the town of Mabila itself, the searchers believe it clearly puts what is being termed the Marengo County Archeological Complex in the province of Tuskaloosa’s Mabila.

Some 141 distinct farmsteads, small Native American homes each less than an acre in size have been located and plotted on a map with GPS coordinates.

Could all of this put us a step closer to finding the elusive Mabila? Could Mabila possibly be in Marengo County? Perhaps.

But a lot more digging, a lot more research remains to be done.

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