The Forgotten Centuries draws together seventeen essays in which historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists attempt for the first time to account for approximately two centuries that are virtually missing from the history of a large portion of the American South.
Using the chronicles of the Spanish soldiers and adventurers, the contributors survey the emergence and character of the chiefdoms of the Southeast. In addition, they offer new scholarly interpretations of the expeditions of Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon from 1521 to 1526, Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528, and most particularly Hernando de Soto in 1539-43, as well as several expeditions conducted between 1597 and 1628.
The essays in this volume address three other connected topics. Describing some of the major chiefdoms--Apalachee, the "Oconee" Province, Cofitachequi, and Coosa--the essays undertake to lay bare the social principles by which they operated. They also explore the major forces of structural change that were to transform the chiefdoms: disease and depopulation, the Spanish mission system, and the English deerskin and slave trades. And finally, they examine how these forces shaped the history of several subsequent southeastern Indian societies, including the Apalachees, Powhatans, Creeks, and Choctaws. These societies, the so-called native societies of the Old South, were, in fact, new ones formed in the crucible fired by the economic expansion of the early modern world.