Why did the Chicken cross the Ocean: an Analysis of Faunal Remains from the Emanuel Point Shipwrecks [University of West Florida, Pensacola]


  • Zackariah David Pagels University of West Florida, Pensacola




Faunal, Emaunel Point, Luna


The purpose of this research project is to determine, through analysis, what species of animals were being utilized onboard the Spanish ships during the Tristán de Luna expedition of 1559. In order to accomplish this goal, I will be analyzing faunal remains recovered from the three Emanuel Point Shipwrecks: EPI, EPII, and EPIII. This research is important because the analysis will allow us to better understand and interpret the lives of the Spaniards onboard the ships during the Luna expedition through their diet.

In 1559, Luna attempted to create the first permanent settlement in Florida, the purpose of which was to construct a chain of missions along the gulf coast (Hudson 1989). These Missions would serve as a crucial component for both converting Native Americans and supporting previously shipwrecked Spaniards (Hudson 1989). The establishment of a permanent settlement in the gulf also had political implications; a colony would mark the Spaniards claim to La Florida and serve to prevent other countries from establishing their own colonies (Arnade 1959, Hudson 1989).

Under the command of Luna were a total of eleven ships, carrying close to fifteen hundred individuals and enough supplies to last a year (Worth 2009). Food, or the lack thereof, was one aspect which served detrimental to the success of the expeditions which came before Luna (Worth 2009). Because of this, the Luna expedition was planned to include enough food to last the Spaniards until crops could be sown and harvested (Worth 2009). Not long after the Spanish arrived, however, Pensacola was struck by a powerful hurricane, sinking seven of Luna’s ships (Arnade 1959, Milanich 1995, Worth 2009). Most, if not all, of the supplies were still onboard the ships when they went down during the hurricane because a permanent storehouse had not yet been constructed (Arnade 1959, Milanich 1995, Worth 2009).

Since the time of their sinking, 459 years ago, three of the seven ships that were lost have been discovered. The first Emanuel Point shipwreck was discovered in 1992 by a group of archaeologists from Florida’s Division of Historical Resources. The University of West Florida’s archaeology program joined the project in 1996. In total, 8,848 individual organic fragments have been recovered from Emanuel Point I alone; these include the remains of fish, shark, reptile, bird and mammal bones. All of these materials are kept in the maritime conservation lab, where they are processed and then conserved. Afterwards, they are moved to the Collection Management Building on campus for storage and future study by both faculty and students.

In order for the remains to be analyzed, they must first be preserved through a process called desalination. This process, conducted in the laboratory incorporates the use of tap water and eventually deionized water to remove most, if not all, salts from the bones. After the bones are desalinated, they go through a process called consolidation. Consolidation allows the bones to be safely exposed to the atmosphere without deteriorating, warping, or excessively cracking; this is accomplished by soaking the bones in a solution of Elmer’s glue and water, usually a 50/50 solution, after which they can be left to air dry. Once the bones are desalinated, consolidated and dried, they are stable and can then be analyzed.

I will be analyzing the faunal material for specific taphonomy characteristics linking them to consumption by humans. These taphonomic characteristics can include cut marks, breaks, bone splitting, and the presence of teeth marks; all of these can directly correlate the remains with butchering or consumption. To conduct species specific identification, I will be working with the Division of Anthropology and Archaeology’s faunal specialist, Mrs. Cathy Parker, and her comparative type collections.

Through this analysis, I will be able to determine the specific species of animals that were being utilized as food by the Spanish and were onboard the ships during their sinking. This study will allow a new glimpse into the life of the Spanish sailors during Tristán de Luna’s fateful 1559 expedition to establish the first permanent settlement along Florida’s Gulf Coast.





Arnade, Charles

1959    Tristan de Luna and Ochuse (Pensacola Bay) 1559. The Florida Historical Quarterly 37(3/4): 201-222.


Hudson, Charles et al.

1989    The Tristan De Luna Expedition, 1559-1561. Southeastern Archaeology 8(1): 31-45


Milanich, Jerald

1995    Florida Indians and the Invasion from Europe. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida


Milanich, Jerald

1999    Laboring in the Fields of the Lord: Spanish Missions and Southeastern Indians. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.


Shirak, Andrey et al.

2012    DNA Barcoding Analysis of Fish Bones from a Shipwreck found at Dor, Israel. The Israeli Journal of Aquaculture, 2012.


Worth, John E.

2009    Documenting Tristan De Lunas Fleet, and the Storm that Destroyed It. The Florida Anthropologist 62(3/4): 83-92


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Author Biography

Zackariah David Pagels, University of West Florida, Pensacola

Undergraduate Student, Department of Anthropology, Senior, University of West Florida, Pensacola, Florida.



How to Cite

Pagels, Z. D. (2019). Why did the Chicken cross the Ocean: an Analysis of Faunal Remains from the Emanuel Point Shipwrecks [University of West Florida, Pensacola]. Journal of Student Research. https://doi.org/10.47611/jsr.vi.647