By Fred Hiers - News Chief
Hernando De Soto's route through Florida is as elusive to modern archaeologists as the gold the famed Spanish explorer sought throughout the southeastern United States.
Ever since De Soto's 600 men set foot on the shores of Tampa Bay, arriving from Cuba almost 500 years ago, historians have debated the exact direction of his failed treasure-hunting expeditions as far north as Tennessee and North Carolina.
But in north Marion County, an archaeologist has found what his contemporaries deem rarer than the gold De Soto was seeking — physical evidence of the explorer's precise journey through Marion County and enough information to redraw Florida De Soto maps and fuel many more archaeological digs based on his findings.
"It gets rid of the guesswork now on the route through Marion County," said Ashley White, a local archaeologist who found the site. "Now, we know for sure he came up through the Black Sink Prairie to Orange Lake and looped around through Micanopy."
From the De Soto site, which sits on the one-time Indian town known as Potano, De Soto eventually marched to Utinamocharra in present day Gainesville and later to Tallahassee for the winter.