Our first Hutchins lecture of the 2014-15 lecture series, titled “Romance and Reality in the Deep South’s Mythical Mission Past: How We Found the Lost Spanish Mission on St. Catherines Island,” will address the nostalgia and romance that has long surrounded the Franciscan and Jesuit missions across America. From San Francisco through the Southwest to the American South, mainstream American history has constructed and perpetuated an idealized, romanticized version of the Spanish mission – complete with Mission Revival architectural styles and reconstructed archaeological sites that sometimes resemble Hollywood stage sets. This illustrated talk draws upon draws upon the most recent archaeological evidence from St. Catherines Island (Georgia) and suggests more historically appropriate perspectives on the mission heritage of the Deep South. The discovery of Mission Santa Catalina de Guale has contributed significantly to knowledge about early inhabitants of the island and about the Spanish presence in Georgia nearly two centuries before the arrival of British colonists.
David Hurst Thomas has served since 1972 as Curator of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History (New York); for seven years, he was Chairman of Department of Anthropology. He has organized and directed more than 100 archaeological excavations, including the discovery of Gatecliff Shelter in Nevada, the deepest archaeological rockshelter in the Americas. He has also taught at Columbia University, New York University, University of California (Davis), University of Florida, University of Nevada, and the City College of New York. Thomas is the author of over 30 books, including St. Catherines: An Island in Time (University of Georgia Press, 2010) and Skull Wars (Basic Books, 2001).