Archaeological Investigation of "Target 17" by the University of West Florida

The Archaeology Institute at the University of West Florida (UWF) applied for Historic Preservation Special Category Grant assistance ($203,368) from the Florida Division of Historical Resources to conduct a major underwater survey and test excavation project near the site of the Emanuel Point Shipwreck. The Emanuel Point Shipwreck was discovered by archaeologists from the Florida Division of Historical Resources (DHR) in 1992, and subsequently studied by Florida DHR and UWF during two campaigns of fieldwork. Located in Pensacola Bay near Emanuel Point, this shipwreck was firmly associated with Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano's attempt to colonize Pensacola in 1559.

Documentary evidence suggested that as many as six other vessels were lost in the 1559 hurricane. With assistance from the grant funds and UWF's Archaeology Institute, UWF archaeologists conducted a systematic remote sensing survey of the area in 2006 using a state of the art magnetometer. The project served as a training ground for undergraduate and graduate students from UWF. As a result, two previously undocumented shipwrecks were discovered. Initially designated as magnetometer targets, Target 2 was determined to be the remains of a shipwreck carrying a large quantity of bricks and was dated to a period slightly before the Civil War. Preliminary test excavation on a second target, Target 17, revealed an extensive stone ballast pile covering well-preserved wooden hull remains. Recovered artifacts including Spanish ceramics and strips of lead hull sheathing suggested that the vessel dated to the first Spanish period, and might also be associated with Tristán de Luna's colonization attempt in 1559.

During the summer of 2007, UWF conducted further excavation on Target 17. This work has helped define the site's extents and confirm the vessel's nationality and historical associations with Luna and Pensacola's first European settlers. Discovery of this second 16th-century Spanish ship, approximately 400 meters west of the first Emanuel Point site, will lead to an unprecedented comparative study of two vessels from an early colonization fleet. In addition, the presence of this second Luna ship may suggest that the remainder of the fleet is preserved in this area as well.

UWF's investigation of Target 17 will serve as a vehicle for public outreach showcasing Pensacola's maritime heritage and submerged cultural resources, and will act as a field laboratory for undergraduate and graduate students from UWF as well as other universities and institutions. Ongoing activities will consist of in-depth historical research, underwater archaeological research (including diving opportunities for qualified public volunteers and students), artifact conservation, temporary exhibits in local museums, online project information, report preparation, and collection of video footage.