University of West Florida
 Faculty Homepage for John Worth

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Research Interests

2004 excavations at the Pineland siteThough I have always maintained a broad-based interest in the prehistory and early history of the Southeastern Indians, in my present research activities I am particularly interested in the impact of the European colonial era on indigenous chiefdoms of the southeastern United States, and their response and adaptation over time in differing political and economic circumstances.  In broader perspective, one of my major long-term goals is to explore the developmental trajectories of the new colonial society comprising greater Spanish Florida between 1513 and 1821, incorporating both indigenous and immigrant colonial groups (and emergent new social and ethnic formations) within and beyond the colonial frontier (see my web page Spanish Florida: Evolution of a Colonial Society, 1513-1763).  Over the course of my professional career, I have had the opportunity to conduct direct research across a broad geographic region within the zone of influence of Spanish Florida and its colonial neighbors, including not just the core mission territories in the Coastal Plain region to the west and north of St. Augustine, but also the territories of the historic Creek and Cherokee Indians of the Piedmont, Appalachian, and Ridge and Valley provinces, as well as the Calusa and other nonagricultural groups of the deep southern Florida peninsula, and now finally including the far western margin of colonial Florida along the northern Gulf coast in Pensacola.  To this end, I collaborate with students and colleagues in broad-based anthropologically-oriented research which draws upon multiple sources of evidence from a number of disciplines.  For information on my past and present research, see the sections below:

Current Research /  Background / Books / Online Publications

Current Research Projects

I have a number of ongoing research projects, some of which are described briefly below:

Since 2007 in concert with ongoing excavations by UWF at the Emanuel Point II shipwreck here in Pensacola Bay, and much more intensively since the 2015 discovery of the Luna Settlement, I have been continuing my earlier studies of Spanish records relating to the expedition of Tristan de Luna y Arellano to Pensacola Bay (and points inland) between 1559 and 1561.  I have been exploring various dimensions of the Luna expedition, ranging from the destruction of the fleet in September of 1559  to various survival strategies undertaken by colonists during subsequent months, including the relocation of the colony inland, as well as the penetration of a small military detachment as far as the Coosawattee River valley of Northwest Georgia, where I was able to conduct archaeological work several years ago.  Complementing this research, I am also reviewing detailed documentary and archaeological evidence for material culture in use at the time of the Luna expedition.

Excavating at Mission Escambe, 2012.Another long-term research project I have been pursuing since 2008, particularly as part of the 2009-2012 UWF terrestrial archaeological field schools that I taught, is the ongoing analysis of 18th-century Spanish documentation relative to Native American communities established in the environs of Pensacola's three successive presidios (Santa Maria, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel), including missionary activity and military detachments in these communities.  Working with several colleagues and graduate students at the UWF Archaeology Institute and Department of Anthropology, I identified high-probability areas where archaeological fieldwork may result in the discovery of one or more of these Pensacola missions, permitting us to examine the source communities for the large collections of Native American ceramics in all three presidios.  Moreover, since the descendants of these mission communities migrated to Veracruz with the evacuation of Spanish Pensacola in 1763, there may also be possibilities for future archival and archaeological work there as well.  I have developed a separate web page relative to the Pensacola Colonial Frontiers Project, which contains further details regarding the overall project as well as a link to a blog regarding our 2009-2015 field schools at Molino, Florida.

2006 Search for Mabila conferenceFor a number of years, I have also been exploring the survivorship of Florida Indians who migrated to Cuba during the 18th century, including not only the 89 surviving inhabitants of the Franciscan missions who evacuated St. Augustine in 1763 and settled in Guanabacoa, but also several earlier waves of migration by Calusa and other South Florida Indians to the vicinity of Havana before 1760.  Detailed review of parish archives in Guanabacoa, combined with extensive Florida and Cuba records in Spain, has provided a remarkable portrait of these expatriots from Florida, in some cases including biographical details from before and after their relocation to Cuba.  I have also recently turned my attention to another 108 Yamasee and Apalachee Indians who migrated to Veracruz in 1763 from their mission communities near Pensacola, and their subsequent fate in Mexico in the newly-formed town of San Carlos de Chachalacas.

I also maintain interest in continuing to analyze the results of my intensive investigation of the Cuban fishing industry in the coastal waters of southwest Florida, from its origins during the 17th century through its growth and development during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  From their primary base in the fishing community of Regla, Cuba, a small fleet of sailing vessels maintained an increasingly regular presence along Florida's southern coastlines, especially following the evacuation of the region by its indigenous inhabitants and their replacement by immigrant Creek and Yamasee Indians after 1760.  Parish records in Regla have supplemented other Cuban and Spanish archival sources to document the emergence of a new creolized ethnic group known as the "Spanish Indians," resulting from extensive commerce and eventual intermarriage between Cuban-based Spanish fishermen and Creek Indians residing in Florida.

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Academic Background and Research Experience

Working on my master's degree fieldwork in Middle Georgia, 1986.A native of northern Georgia, I began my archaeological training began in 1981 as a high school volunteer under the tutelage of Roy Dickens at Georgia State University in Atlanta (see photos of this and other projects), and continued between 1984-1988 at the University of Georgia in Athens with classes from David Hally (see right) and Stephen Kowalewski (including a field school with Chester DePratter at the University of South Carolina), from which I received my dual BA and MA in Anthropology.  From 1988-1992 I attended graduate school at the University of Florida in Gainesville, with coursework from archaeologists Jerald Milanich, Kathleen Deagan, Brent Weisman, and William Keegan, from which I received my Ph.D. in Anthropology with an interdisciplinary focus in History (see below).  My overall archaeological experience in school and subsequently has included survey, excavations, and labwork relating to sites in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama, including Mississippian mounds, villages, and farmsteads, Late Archaic steatite quarries, Woodland-era shell middens and house-floors in Southwest Florida, 17th-century Spanish missions, a late 18th-century Cuban fishing camp, early 19th-century Cherokee and Creek farmsteads, an early 19th-century Creek Agency, and a mid 19th-century Seminole War fort.

My early ethnohistorical training, and also much of my anthropological theoretical orientation (aligned with British social anthropology and the Annales school of French social history, with strong influence from archaeological processualism), originated with Charles Hudson (see above right) at the University of Georgia, and continued at the University of Florida with the support of Jerry Milanich above, as well as coursework with historians Michael Gannon and Murdo MacLeod, and archivist Bruce Chappell.  My subsequent ethnohistorical experience has included extensive Spanish archival research during twelve trips to the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, as well as in the Archivo Historico Nacional and the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, the Archivo Nacional de Cuba in Havana, the Archivo General de la Nacion in Mexico City, as well as parish archives and other repositories in Spain, Cuba, and Mexico, concurrent with considerable research at the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History at UF in Gainesville and most recently at the Department of Special Collections at UWF in Gainesville.

A full listing of my professional research publications and activities can be found at this link:  c.v. for John E. Worth

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Discovering Florida (2014)
Discovering Florida: First Contact Narratives from Spanish Expeditions along the Lower Gulf Coast.  Gainesville: University Press of Florida (2014)

This book includes original Spanish transcriptions and English translations of all major narrative accounts of 16th-century Spanish expeditions to Florida's lower Gulf coast, including the Juan Ponce de León expeditions (1513-1521), the Pánfilo de Narváez and Hernando de Soto expeditions, and the Juan Ortiz captivity (1528-1539), the Luis Cancer expedition (1549), the Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda captivity (1549-1566), and the Pedro Menéndez de Avilés expeditions (1566-1569).  Detailed notes and an extensive introductory overview are also included (ISBN: 978-0813049885).

Online press site 

Struggle for the Georgia Coast 2007 The Struggle for the Georgia Coast (Reprint of 1995 edition with expanded preface).  Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press (2007)

This reprint of the 1995 volume described below includes a new and significantly expanded preface detailing recent discoveries and new insights from the intervening years, and provides details regarding the evidence for Guale and Mocama survivorship through their 18th-century withdrawal to St. Augustine and eventually Cuba (ISBN: 978-0817354114).

Online press site


Timucuan Chiefdoms Vol. I 1998

The Timucuan Chiefdoms of Spanish Florida, Volume I: Assimilation.  Gainesville: University Press of Florida (1998).

This first volume of a two volume set represents the result of six years of additional research beyond my 1992 dissertation, and presents a detailed analysis of the emergence, structure, and function of the 17th-century colonial system of Spanish Florida, focusing on the Timucuan chiefdoms of the northern peninsular interior of Florida.  The volume explores not only the internal details of indigenous Timucuan political economy, but also the over-arching political structure of the military and Franciscan jurisdictions of Spanish Florida, as well as the infrastructure and economic basis of the Florida mission system (ISBN: 978-0813015743).

Out of print.


Timucuan Chiefdoms Vol. II 1998

The Timucuan Chiefdoms of Spanish Florida, Volume II: Resistance and Destruction.  Gainesville: University Press of Florida (1998).

This second "Timucuan Chiefdoms" volume explores the many stresses that undermined and eventually led to the collapse of the mid-17th-century colonial system of Spanish Florida, including depopulation due to a variety of causes, as well as the important Timucuan Rebellion of 1656, which resulted in a massive restructuring of the indigenous social landscape of interior Florida.  The volume details the contraction and withdrawal of the interior Timucuan missions in the context of increasingly frequent slave-raiding, and the final decades of Timucuan presence in the vicinity of St. Augustine between 1706 and 1763.  Appendices include detailed locational information on interior Timucuan missions, as well as new translations of pivotal documents (ISBN: 978-0813015750).

Out of print.

Struggle for the Georgia Coast 1995 The Struggle for the Georgia Coast: An Eighteenth-Century Spanish Retrospective on Guale and Mocama.  Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, Number 75.  Athens: University of Georgia Press (1995).

The core of this book is a set of annotated translations of a 1739 package of Spanish documents that were assembled by Florida Governor Manuel de Montiano (and his secretary Francisco de Castilla) at the request of the Spanish crown in an effort to demonstrate the historical antiquity of the Spanish presence in what was then the recently-founded British colony of Georgia.  The documents spanned the 16th through 18th centuries, and provided extraordinary details regarding a poorly-known era of early Georgia history.  An in-depth introductory overview provides my analysis and interpretation regarding the gradual retreat and withdrawal of the Guale and Mocama missions between 1661 and 1685, when slave-raiders and pirates ravaged the Georgia coastline.  Appendices include detailed locational information on coastal missions (ISBN: 0820317454)

Out of print (digital edition available free online here).

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Selected Publications and Presentations Online

The PDF files below represent a selection of my previous writings which have never been published, including a range of presented papers and brief reports (some with co-authors), some of which contain a full set of citations and references, and others of which are simply text essays.  Also included are a few older published chapters.  Clicking on the links below will open a new browser window, or the files can be downloaded by right clicking and saving.  My papers are also posted on my homepage at and at ResearchGate.

The Discovery and Exploration of Tristán de Luna’s 1559-1561 Settlement on Pensacola Bay (by John E. Worth, Elizabeth D. Benchley, Janet R. Lloyd, and Jennifer Melcher). Paper presented at the 69th Annual Meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society, Jacksonville, Florida, May 6, 2017.

The Luna Expedition: An Overview from the Documents.  Paper presented in the symposium “The Tristan de Luna Shipwrecks and Settlement (1559-1561) in Pensacola, Florida,” organized by Elizabeth D. Benchley, at the 50th Annual Conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Fort Worth, Texas (2017).

Interpreting Spanish Artifact Assemblages in the Mid-Sixteenth-Century Southeast: The View from the 1559-1561 Tristán de Luna Settlement on Pensacola Bay.  Paper presented in the symposium “Documenting Early European/Native American Contacts and their Repercussions in the Southeast: A Symposium honoring Marvin T. Smith” at the 73rd Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Athens, GA (2016).

Materialized Landscapes of Practice: Exploring Native American Ceramic Variability in the Historic-Era Southeastern United States.  Paper presented at the 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida (2016).

Preliminary Observations on the Archaeological Assemblage of the 1559-1561 Tristán de Luna Settlement.  Paper presented at the 49th Annual Conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Washington, D.C. (2016).

Shifting Landscapes of Practice in the Eastern Gulf Coastal Plain during the Colonial Era.  Paper presented in the symposium “Contact, Persistence and Change: Protohistoric and Early Historic Archaeology of the Gulf Coastal Plain” at the 72nd Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Nashville, Tennessee (2015).

Bridging History and Prehistory: General Reflections and Particular Quandries.  Paper presented in the symposium “Bridging Prehistory and History” at the 69th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Baton Rouge, Louisiana (2012).

Exploring Mission Life in 18th-Century West Florida: 2011 Excavations at San Joseph de Escambe (by John E. Worth, Norma J. Harris, Jennifer Melcher, and Danielle Dadiego). Paper presented at the 2012 Conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Baltimore, Maryland.

San Joseph de Escambe: A 18th-Century Apalachee Mission in the West Florida Borderlands (by John E. Worth, Norma J. Harris, and Jennifer Melcher). Paper presented at the 2011 Conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Austin, Texas.

Forging a New Identity in Florida’s Refugee Missions.  Paper presented in the symposium “Missions and Frontiers in Spanish America” at the 53rd International Conference of Americanists, Mexico City, July19-24, 2009.

Rediscovering Pensacola's Lost Spanish Missions.  Paper presented at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina (2008).

An Ethnohistorical Perspective on Hunter-Gatherer Complexity in South Florida. Paper presented in the symposium “The Emergence of Hunter-Gatherer Complexity in South Florida” at the 73rd  Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia (2008).

The Social Geography of South Florida during the Spanish Colonial Era.  Paper presented in the symposium “From Coast to Coast: Current Research in South Florida Archaeology” at the 71st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Juan, Puerto Rico (2006).

A History of Southeastern Indians in Cuba, 1513-1823.  Paper  presented at the 61st annual meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, St. Louis, Missouri (2004).

Rediscovering a Lost Georgia Battlefield: The 1702 "Battle of the Blankets" along the Lower Flint River.  Report submitted to the Worth County Historical Society and the Georgia Historical Society, January 16, 2004.

The Evacuation of South Florida, 1704-1760.  Paper presented at the 60th annual meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina (2003).

An Ethnohistorical Synthesis of Southeastern Chiefdoms: How does Coosa compare?  Paper presented in the symposium "Coosa: Twenty Years Later" at the 60th annual meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina (2003).

Spanish Missions and the Persistence of Chiefly Power.  In The Transformation of the Southeastern Indians, 1540-1760, ed. by Robbie Ethridge and Charles Hudson, pp. 39-64.  Jackson: University Press of Mississippi (2002).

A Primer on Georgia's American Indian Heritage.  Essay submitted to the Georgia Council for American Indian Concerns for use with proposed tribal recognition guidelines, November 29, 2001.

The Lower Creeks: Origins and Early History.  In Indians of the Greater Southeast: Historical Archaeology and Ethnohistory, ed. by Bonnie G. McEwan, pp. 265-298. Gainesville: University Press of Florida (2000).

Coastal Chiefdoms and the Question of Agriculture: An Ethnohistorical Overview.  Paper presented at the 56th annual meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Pensacola (1999).

Yamassee Origins and the Development of the Carolina-Florida Frontier.  Paper presented at the fifth annual conference of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Austin, Texas (1999).

Missions of the Camino Real: Timucua and the Colonial System of Spanish Florida.  Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Historical Association, Seattle (1998).

Integrating Ethnohistory and Archaeology among the Timucua: An Overview of Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida.  Paper presented in the symposium "Late Prehistoric through Mission Period Research in the Coastal Timucuan Region" at the 54th annual meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Baton Rouge (1997).

The Eastern Creek Frontier: History and Archaeology of the Flint River Towns, ca. 1750-1826.  Paper presented in the symposium "Recent Advances in Lower Creek Archaeology" at the annual conference of the Society for American Archaeology, Nashville (1997).

Late Spanish Military Expeditions in the Interior Southeast, 1597-1628.  In The Forgotten Centuries: Indians and Europeans in the American South, 1521-1704, ed. by Charles Hudson and Carmen Chaves Tesser, pp. 104-22. University of Georgia Press, Athens (1994).

The Early Seventeenth Century Locations of Tama and Utinahica.  Appendix A to Historic Indian Period Archaeology of the Georgia Coastal Plain, by Chad. O. Braley, pp. 59-A8.  Georgia Archaeological Research Design Paper No. 10 (1995).

Exploration and Trade in the Deep Frontier of Spanish Florida: Possible Sources for 16th-Century Spanish Artifacts in Western North Carolina. Paper presented in the symposium "A Consideration of Archaeological and Documentary Evidence for 16th- and 17th-Century Spanish and Native Contact in Western North Carolina" at the 51st annual meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Lexington (1994).

The Timucuan Missions of Spanish Florida and the Rebellion of 1656.  Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida, Gainesville (1992). (other formats available on

Timucua and the Colonial System in Florida: The Rebellion of 1656.  Paper presented in the symposium "New Perspectives on the Spanish Colonial Experience" at the 25th conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Kingston, Jamaica (1992).

Archaeological Investigation of a Mississippian Fall-Line Chiefdom on the Middle Flint River.  Paper presented at the Fiftieth Anniversary Meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, New Orleans (1988).

Mississippian Occupation on the Middle Flint River.  M.A. Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia, Athens (1988). [warning: large PDF file, 82 MB]

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