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date: 27 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

From San Francisco, California to St. Augustine, Florida, the Franciscan mission system of the sixteenth–nineteenth centuries was the primary locus of protracted contact between Native Americans and Hispanic newcomers. This article examines how our perception of the archaeological record—specifically with respect to Indian agency—has long varied across the Spanish Borderlands, reflecting biases and misperceptions constructed in academic historiography and popular regional culture. Most archaeologists seem to view the Spanish colonial period in the Southwest as relatively well understood and well investigated. But Ivey and Thomas (2005) question this assumption, especially as regards mission archaeology, where only a dozen or so seventeenth-century missions have been “excavated” or even minimally “tested.” And viewed critically, the details of this research come across as hasty, outdated, and poorly reported.

Keywords: historical archaeology, Spanish borderlands, Native Americans, Hispanics, archaeological record, academic historiography

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