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Luna Expedition

Tristán de Luna y Arellano led an expedition from Veracruz, Mexico to modern-day Pensacola, Florida in 1559 to begin the Spanish colonization of the northern Gulf Coast. One month after they arrived, the colony was struck by a hurricane, sinking many of their ships and devastating their food supplies. After two years, the remnants of the colony were rescued by Spanish ships and returned to Mexico.

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The University of West Florida archaeology program has conducted research related to the Luna settlement since 1992 when the Emanuel Point I shipwreck was discovered in Pensacola Bay. The UWF archaeology program includes a select group of 13 full-time professional archaeologists, nine support staff and numerous graduate students. The program has a rich history of significant instruction, research and public outreach in the Pensacola region.

Emanuel Point III Shipwreck

During the Combined Archaeological Field Methods course in June 2016, the UWF archaeology team detected a magnetic anomaly in an area between the first two Emanuel Point shipwreck sites and the recently-discovered land site for the Luna settlement. That anomaly led to the discovery of ballast stones, iron concretions and articulated hull of the ship, including frames and hull planking, as well as remnants of ceramics once carried on it. The new shipwreck - named Emanuel Point III - was found thanks to a Special Category Grant from the Florida Division of Historical Resources. 

Featured Artifacts

Luna Settlement Land Site

The UWF archaeology program announced the identification of the Luna settlement land site in December 2015. UWF archaeologists recovered numerous sherds of broken 16th century Spanish ceramics found undisturbed beneath the ground surface, linking the site to the Luna expedition.

Featured Artifacts

Emanuel Point II Shipwreck

UWF archaeologists identified a second shipwreck in 2006 that linked to the Luna expedition. Some of the artifacts initially recovered included Spanish ceramics and strips of lead hull sheathing dating to the 16th century. UWF continued further excavations at Emanuel Point II starting in a field school in Summer 2007. The most recent excavations were conducted by UWF archaeologists thanks to a Special Category Grant from the Florida Division of Historical Resources.

Emanuel Point I Shipwreck

In 1992, a team from the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research discovered the remains of a Spanish galleon from the Luna expedition in 1559. The shipwreck was found with a magnetometer that detected an embedded anchor near a mound of ballast stones covering the ship's wooden hull. Excavations at the site began during a UWF field school in Summer 1993 and continued through 1998 under the direction of Dr. Roger Smith, Florida State underwater archaeologist.

European Colonization in the United States

Abbreviated Chronology of European Colonization in the Southeastern U.S.

  • 1492: Christopher Columbus
  • 1513: Juan Ponce de León
  • 1521: Juan Ponce de León
  • 1526: Lúcas Vázquez de Ayllón (San Miguel de Gualdape)
  • 1528: Pánfilo de Narváez
  • 1539-1543: Hernando de Soto
  • 1549: Luís Cancer

1559-1561: The Tristán de Luna y Arellano expedition establishes a colonial settlement at Pensacola Bay, originally in an effort to push inland to Coosa and finally to Santa Elena on the South Carolina Coast. The destruction of the fleet by a hurricane dooms the expedition, which finally withdraws two years later.

  • 1562-1565: Jean Ribault (Charlesfort)/René de Laudonnière (Fort Caroline)
  • 1565: Pedro Menéndez de Avilés (St. Augustine)
  • 1585-1587: Walter Raleigh (Roanoke)
  • 1607: Virginia Company (Jamestown)

For more details about European colonization in the U.S., and Pensacola history, view the expanded history page.

Related Pages

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About UWF

Get ready to make some waves. At the University of West Florida, we see change and rush forward. Because we see change as inspirational: A source of ideas and insights, startups and breakthroughs, innovation and collaboration. We see change coming, faster than ever, and we’re ready for it. Because we’re leading it.

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About UWF Anthropology and Archaeology

The Division of Anthropology and Archaeology includes the disciplines of anthropology, archaeology, and sociology. The Division consists of four integrated units: