Christopher Columbus established the short-lived settlement La Navidad in what is now Haiti. Artifacts from this site provide some of the earliest evidence of Spanish presence in the Americas. This musket ball suggests violent interactions between Spaniards and the local Taíno.


Spanish Musket Ball
From En Bas Saline, Haiti
Dates to late 15th century


Historical Archaeology


Christopher Columbus first made landfall in the Bahamas in 1492, making brief contact and leaving little to no trace. His ship sailed on to the island of Hispaniola where his flagship, the Santa María, ran aground on a reef near the site of En Bas Saline. The Spanish, with the help of the local Taíno, salvaged what they could from the ship and Columbus left 39 of his men there with orders to build a tower and a moat, and to search for gold until he came back the following year after returning to Spain.

When he returned nine months later, Columbus found the fort burned and all his men dead. This musket ball is one of the few European artifacts found at the site of En Bas Saline, believed to be the location of that initial settlement of La Navidad. It is likely the earliest musket ball found in the Americas and is a reminder of the violent interactions between the Spaniards and the local Taíno.

Gifford Waters
Collection Manager, Historical Archaeology*
Florida Museum of Natural History


On display Sept. 23, 2017-Jan. 7, 2018, Rare, Beautiful & Fascinating: 100 Years @FloridaMuseum celebrated the Museum’s rich history. Each Museum collection was asked to contribute its most interesting items and share the stories that make them special. Though the physical exhibit is closed, this companion website remains online, providing an opportunity to experience the Florida Museum’s most treasured specimens.

Exhibit Area: Objects Tell Stories

Theme: Spanish Colonial Archaeology

Cover of the All Things Beautiful bookWant to see more? Explore more than 300 breathtaking color photos of plants, animals, fossils and cultural heritage materials from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s collections in the award-winning book All Things Beautiful available from the University Press of Florida.

*This title was accurate at the time the exhibit was on display in 2017. Please visit the collection website to verify current staff and student information.

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