Archaeology at WWC
The Berry Site
Exploring Joara Foundation
The Berry site is a large Native American town that was occupied from about A.D. 1400-1600. During the mid-16th century, Berry may have been among the largest Native towns in North America.
We have identified the Berry site as the town of Joara,which was visited by the Hernando de Soto expedition in 1540 and by the Juan Pardo expedition from 1567-68. Pardo built a fort at Joara-Fort San Juan-the earliest European settlement in the interior of what is now the United States.
In December 1566, Juan Pardo left the Spanish town of Santa Elena on the South Carolina and traveled into North Carolina in search of an overland route to Mexico. During his march, he built a string of small forts between modern day Beaufort, South Carolina, and what is now western Tennessee. Scholars have debated about the routes of Pardo and de Soto for years, but our research at the Berry site provides evidence that both of these expeditions passed through the upper Catawba Valley of North Carolina.
Spanish soldiers lived at Fort San Juan for 18 months, from January 1567 until about June 1568. During the spring of 1568, relations between the Spaniards and the native peoples of Joara ended tumultously, and the fort was burned and destroyed.
Every summer since 2001 Warren Wilson College and Western Piedmont Community College have led a field school at the Berry site that invites anyone to join. Students can enroll for credit if they wish. For more information, please visit our Field School web page.