First Encounters: Spanish Explorations in the Caribbean and the United States, 1492-1570

By Jerald T. Milanich; Susan Milbrath | Go to book overview

Charles R. Ewen Maurice W. Williams


5 / Puerto Real: Archaeology of an Early Spanish Town

Located on the northwest coast of Hispaniola, Puerto Real was one of the earliest Spanish colonial settlements in the New World. Founded in 1503, just over a decade after Columbus's first voyage of discovery, the town is one of only a few such early settlements in the Caribbean that has been systematically studied by archaeologists. Such sites provide the opportunity to understand the initial Spanish adaptations to the New World and the development of a Hispanic-American colonial tradition.

At Puerto Real it is possible to identify the elements of the Columbian exchange. What beliefs and behavior and habits were brought from the Old World to the New? How did the Spanish colonists adapt those traits to new social, economic, and environmental conditions? Combining historical archival research with archaeological excavations is generally an ideal way to study the Columbian exchange. The Spanish Crown kept meticulous records of all its activities, including its colonization efforts in the Caribbean. The documentary record for the settlement of Hispaniola during the sixteenth century is fairly extensive. Archival materials relative to Puerto Real are included in this documentary paper trail first assembled by Dr. William Hodges of Limbé, Haiti. Many were recently dis

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