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Map ofthe Texas coast showing the location ofthe three archeological cemeteries mentioned in the text. The exact location of the Island of Malhado is unknown, but Galveston Island or Follet's Island are likely candidates. Map by Matthew S. Taylor. Notes and Documents Cabeza de Vaca and the Introduction ofDisease to Texas By Matthew S. Taylor* IN I528 THE SHATTERED REMNANTS OF A SPANISH EXPEDITION TO LA Floridawere cast ashore on the upperTexas coast. Many survivors landed on Galveston Island (or a nearby coastal feature) and were taken in by local Indians. Not long after the starving Spaniards arrived, many ofthe locals began to die ofa mysterious stomach ailment. Many researchers have taken this episode as evidence that the expedition introduced some form ofOld World pathogen into what is nowTexas. This paperseeks to test that idea by examining the ethnohistoric, epidemiological, and paleopathological evidence. It will also offer alternatives to the traditional interpretation of events.1 When Panfilo de Narváez left Cuba in 1528, he commanded one of the largest conquering forces seen in the Americas up to that point. More than 300 men made landfall on the Florida coast on April 14, 1528, but ultimately only a handful would survive. Narváez blundered his way across Florida, alienating native peoples and losing contact with his supporting fleet. After reaching the area of Apalachee Bay, the remaining Spaniards made improvised barges and attempted to sail to the outpost of Panuco, more than 900 miles away ( 1400 kilometers) . They mistakenly believed the journey would be a short one.2 * Matthew S. Taylor is a bioarcheologist widi die Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, University ofTexas at Austin. The bulk ofhis research has focused on studying past healdi and disease patterns in early indigenous populations from Texas. The autiior would like to thank Dr. Darrell Creel and Laura Nightengale for allowing access to the collections of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory. 1 Literature diat discusses the epidemiological consequences of the Narváez expedition include Cyclone Covey, Cabeza de Vaca'sAdventures in the Unknown InteriorofAmerica (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998); Henry F. Dobyns, TheirNumberBecome Thinned (Knoxville: University ofTennessee Press, ig83);John C. Ewars, "The Influence ofEpidemics on the Indian Populations and Cultures of Texas," Plains Anthropologist, 18 (1973), 104; Dean R. Snow and K. M. Lanphear, "European Contact and Indian Depopulation in die Northeast: The Timingofthe First Epidemics," Ethnohistory, 7 (ig88),15-33; R-J- Thornton et al., "Depopulation in die Soudieast after I4g2," in Disease andDemography in theAmericas, ed.John W. Verano and Douglas H. Ubelaker (Washington, D.C.: Smidisonian Institution Press, igg2), 187-195. 2AIeX D. Krieger (trans, and ed.), We Came Naked and Barefoot: TheJourney ofCabeza de Vaca across Vol. CXI, No. 4 Southwestern Historical QuarterlyApril, 2008 420Southwestern Historical QuarterlyApril The five barges were barely seaworthy, but they managed to make it past the Mississippi River and were finally thrown ashore up and down the coast ofTexas in November 1528. Between their embarkation at Apalachee Bay and their landing in Texas, the survivors had very little to eat or drink, were attacked at nearly every landing by native peoples, and suffered from the effects of the elements in an open barge. A total of two barges landed on or near present-day Galveston Island. One of them held the treasurer of the expedition, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca. He would be one of only six survivors of the expedition. After many trials and tribulations he and three other castaways—Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, Alonso del Castillo Maldonado, and Esteban—would walk their way across a portion ofNorth America and eventually to Spanish-held territory in Mexico in 1536. Two other members of the expedition were later discovered by the entrada of Hernando de Soto.Juan Ortiz was found in Florida and Lope de Oviedo near the lower Mississippi River.3 Cabeza de Vaca later wrote that after they were shipwrecked, only one man had strength enough to climb a nearby tree to gain intelligence oftheir surroundings. Eventually, they were found by local Indians, probably either Karankawas or Akokisas. These peoples were hunter-gatherer-fishers who inhabited the bays and inlets around Galveston Island. The Spaniards were taken...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9560
Print ISSN
0038-478X
Pages
pp. 418-427
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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