The site of the first European inland settlement in the United States will be open to the public during the annual Field Day at the historic Joara site in Morganton, N.C., on Saturday, June 24.
This summer marks the 450th anniversary of Spanish explorers establishing Fort San Juan alongside Joara, a Native American village. The Spanish settlement, which predates Jamestown by 40 years, co-existed with the village of Joara for 18 months before being destroyed by the natives.
Field Day visitors get a chance to see the ongoing archaeological site excavation, interact with researchers from Warren Wilson College, explore the Native American culture of that period, and learn more about the Exploring Joara Foundation during this special anniversary year.
“This is the best time of the entire year to visit the site because you have access to the people who have been leading this research for almost 30 years,” says Marie Palacios, executive director of Exploring Joara Foundation. “It is one of the few days that the excavation is largely uncovered and the archaeologists are actually standing in the middle of it as they host tours.”
Many attendees will be amazed to learn that one of the most important and least-known chapters of American history took place just north of Morganton at what is now called the Berry Site, to honor the landowners who’ve allowed the archaeological dig to take place.
“This is the 18th year for our Field Day. It began informally with two tables in the middle of the field and I was there with a few crew members to talk to anybody who came by,” says Dr. David Moore, lead researcher. “It’s grown since then and we’ve had as many as 1,000 people. We kind of create a museum for a day around the excavation and let the public come in and show them as much as we can about what’s happening and what we’ve learned at the site.”
The event is family friendly with multiple exhibitors, as well as historical demonstrations representing blacksmithing, primitive skills and Catawba Indian crafts. Kids can pick up a passport which has little symbols leading them to noteworthy locations across the site.
One of the most popular exhibits is the display of new artifacts uncovered in the last year.
Field Day runs from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5. Folks are also encouraged to visit the new exhibit about Joara/Fort San Juan at the History Museum of Burke County in Morganton, either before heading out to the event or the day before.
For directions and more details, call (828) 439-2463 or visit exploringjoara.org.
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