Duhare . . . the Medieval Irish colony in North America

Éire Mhór (Greater Ireland) is a fact . . . not folklore.  Duhare was located very close to present day Savannah, Georgia and was a vassal province of Apalachikora – the original capital of the original Creek Confederacy.

Part 16a of the Mesolithic Period in North America

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

If one never asks questions, one will never obtain answers.  This is the root cause of a flawed understanding of North America’s early history. Ivy League academicians ignored the late 17th century writings of Charles de Rochefort, because he described an advanced indigenous civilization in Georgia.  It was just after the American Civil War. The professors assumed that nothing “advanced” could come out of the South.

Most European and all North American academicians also ignored the early 16th century writings of Italian historian, Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, who served the King of Spain.  Martyr described a European colony on the South Atlantic Coast, which existed for several centuries prior to the voyages of Columbus.  Its people raised and milked dairy deer.  Most later scholars assumed that statement about the dairy deer discredited the entire story.

The following article was written, while I was National Architecture Columnist for the Examiner and living in an abandoned chicken house in Union County, GA – near Track Rock Gap. My inflated mattress was parked in the former hatchery, which had running water, electricity and telephone/internet service . . . but only a wood stove for heat. I was doing the research for former Director of the National Museum of American History, plus later, Director of the National Park Service,  Roger Kennedy. 

Sooner or later, one will replace a bad spouse, but it is awfully durn hard to find a good herd dog . . . especially three of them that also love to camp out and hike. I kept the painting of the rock garden that I had built while in college, to remind me that being homeless would end some day.

Roger and I planned to co-write a book on the Early Colonial Period, after his current project,  “Greek Revival America,” was published. Roger died of cancer on September 30, 2011.   I completed the research in 2013, but focused on the architecture.  That book is entitled, “Earthfast . . . the Dawn of a New World.”  It is available from Lulu Publishing Inc.    

This article will be followed by one that describes the research that I did from late 2011 to 2013.  Some European scholars did recognize the legitimacy of the story by Peter Martyr, but they were ostracized by North American academicians.

Forgotten 490-year-old Spanish documents describe an Irish province in South Carolina

CHARLESTON, SC – May 25, 2011 (Examiner.com) A long overlooked report made to the King of Spain in 1521 provides an eyewitness account of an Irish province on the coast of South Carolina. The description of its culture seemed so absurd to scholars, not familiar with Irish history that it was ignored during the following five centuries . . . until now. 

First Spanish attempt to colonize North America

The year 1521 AD was one of the most important in the history of Spain.  In 1519 Hernán Cortés had led a band of 550 conquistadors and sailors into the heart of the Aztec Empire, in violation of orders from the Governor of Cuba, Diego Veláquez, In January 1521 he began a siege of the three Aztec capital cities of Texcoco, Tlatalolco and Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs had been greatly weakened by European plagues.  Cut off from food supplies and potable water for weeks, Tenochtitlan, one of the largest cities in the world, fell. The incalculable amount of gold and silver in Mexico soon made Spain a super-power.

In early 1521, Spanish colonists elsewhere assumed that Cortés’ insubordinate invasion of Mexico had failed.  They had no knowledge of the vast wealth of Mexico and were looking around for new locations to found colonies for growing sugar cane and, hopefully, mining gold and silver.  Francisco Gordillo and Pedro de Quejo secretly sailed ships to the Carolina coast to capture Native American slaves and scout out potential locations for new colonies.  They captured 70 victims,

One ship sank in a storm on the return voyage to Santo Domingo, causing its human cargo to drown.  When they learned about the abduction, colonial authorities freed the surviving captives.  Word soon spread throughout Dominca that Cortés had obtained unimaginable wealth in Mexico, and that La Florida (southeastern North America) was much larger than explorer Ponce de Leon had imagined

Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, a wealthy sugar cane planter and member of the Audencia (colonial council) interviewed Gordillo and Quejo, plus an especially bright Native that they had attempted to enslave, named by the Spanish, Francisco de Chicora.  De Ayllón then compiled a report to be submitted to the King of Spain that accompanied his petition to be named the Governor of the future Province of La Florida.   King Carlos V granted Ayllón a charter to colonize La Florida at his own expense and be made its hereditary noble.

In 1520 Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, a historian and professor, was appointed by Carlos V to be chronicler for the new Council of the Indies. In 1522, he interviewed Francisco de Chicora, Gordillo, Quejo and Ayllón for weeks then submitted a detailed report to the king. Martyr died in 1526, but this report was published posthumously in a book named “De Orbe Novo” (About the New World.)  The book has been published and translated numerous times in the centuries since then.   The passages concerning the land that would become Georgia and the Carolinas were always included, but generally ignored.

After some more exploratory voyages, de Ayllón founded a colony in 1526 at location now believed to be near the mouth of the Altamaha River in Georgia.  The colony quickly collapsed due to disease and starvation.  Ayllón was one of those who died.   It was abandoned six months after being settled.

The Spanish visitors stated that Duhare architecture was very similar to that of their American Indian neighbors, but there was a palisaded coral in the center, where the domesticated deer slept at night. In the daytime, the dairy deer browsed through the woods.

The Duhare cheese-makers

While Gordillo and Quejo treated the Chicora Indians with treachery, their relations with the other province along that section of the Atlantic Coast were peaceful.  Peter Martyr recorded its name as Duhare. It was one of the more powerful provinces in the region.

The inhabitants of Duhare were described as being Europeans, who seemed to possess few metal tools.  They had red to brown hair, tan skin and gray eyes.  The men wore full beards and were much taller than the Spanish.  The ancestors of the Creek Indians were at least a foot taller than the Spanish. The ancestral Creek men wore mustaches and high leaders wore beards, but the beards were thin like those of the Chinese and Koreans.  Nevertheless, Spanish accounts clearly labeled the Duhare, Caucasians, even though their houses and pottery were apparently similar to those of American Indians.

In many respects, the Duhare had similar lifestyles to neighboring American Indian provinces, for one exception . . . they raised many types of livestock including chickens, ducks, geese and deer. According to all Spanish sources, the Duhare maintained large herds of domesticated deer and made cheese from deer milk! The excess male deer population was fattened with corn for butchering. The deer stayed in corrals within the villages at night, but grazed in herds in the day time, accompanied by “deer-herders” and herd dogs.  Neighboring peoples knew not to hunt them. Several Spanish sources, including de  Ayllón, stated that the Duhare owned some horses.  However, when interviewed by Martyr, Francisco de Chicora could not confirm or deny the presence of horses.

The people of Duhare were also skilled farmers. They grew large quantities of Indian corn, plus another grain, which the Spanish did not recognize.  They also grew several varieties of potatoes and all the other vegetables that had been developed in the New World.

The king of Duhare was named Datha.  He was described by the Spanish as being a giant, even when compared to his peers. He had five children and a wife as tall as him.  Datha had brightly colored paint or tattoos on his skin that seemed to distinguish him from the commoners.

History lost in the fine print

In 1922 the Smithsonian Institute published, “History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors” by renowned ethnologist, John W. Swanton. It included much of Martyr’s passages on Duhare, but was prefaced with contemptuous remarks by Swanton that the story about deer producing milk couldn’t be true and that the Duhare were probably a Siouan tribe. 

In 1998, a version of the book, edited by famous archaeologist, Gerald Millanich was published by the University of Florida Press.  It also contained the description of Duhare, but again all readers assumed that Swanton’s assessment was accurate.

I decided to fact-check Swanton and Millanich. After googling Ireland – deer – milk, I found a fascinating article about an ancient Irish lullaby, called Bainne nam fiadh: In English, it reads, “On milk of deer I was reared. On milk of deer. I was nurtured. On milk of deer beneath the ridge of storms on crest of hill and mountain.”

I contacted the new Irish Consulate in Atlanta.  A lady answered, who had a beautiful Irish lilt to her voice and introduced herself as the Executive Secretary for the Consul,  Paul Gleeson.  She remembered her mother singing her that lullaby.  I asked her if deer milk was a myth or did some Irish actually milk deer.   She said that she would make a call to the embassy in Washington, DC.

A couple of days later, she called me back.  A large, domesticated Red Deer (close relative of the American Elk) was originally the only source of milk and cheese in Ireland.

What about those words that the people of Duhare spoke?  I contacted the Irish Consulate in Atlanta again, who contacted the Cultural Attache’ in New York City, who contacted Medieval Irish History and Medieval Irish Language professors at Trinity College in Dublin. They checked their Medieval Irish dictionaries quickly found translations for the Duhare words, recorded by the Spanish.  Duhare can either be translated as “di-hAicher – place of the Clan Hare” . . . or could have meant, “du’hAire – place of the Irish.”   Aire meant “Island Nation” in Archaic Irish.

Datha was a standard Medieval Irish Gaelic word that means “painted.”  Since the Spanish recorded that Datha, the king of Duhare covered his skin with pigments or tattoos, as was traditional among the Celts, this name makes perfect sense.  

Supporting what the Consulate Secretary told me,   the Irish Cultural Attache’ said that the professors told him that the Scandinavians at Dublin and Wexford introduced dairy goats to Ireland, while the English monks introduced dairy cows.  The Osrey People in the former Kingdom of Leinster were the most skilled at making deer milk cheese.  Osrey means “Deer Kingdom.”

These Irish professors felt certain that these words indicated that there was a colony of Irish folk living in what is now South Carolina, when Christopher Columbus “thought” he had discovered the New World.  When and how the Irish got to the New World was another question.  Most likely it was during the Medieval Period. 

Even if the Irish had originally known how to smelt iron and bronze, the nearest deposits of iron and copper ores were a 280 miles (448 km) away from the coast. There are no tin deposits in the Southeastern Coastal Plain for making bronze.  However, there Is a deposit of tin ore in the South Carolina Piedmont.  A couple of generations of NOT making iron tools, and the people would have forgotten the knowledge.

There is a particular irony to this stark change in North America’s official history.  During the Irish Potato Famine, all the ports in the United States, except Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA were closed to Irish immigration.   Possibly, as many as a quarter million Irish immigrants entered the United States through Charleston and Savannah.  Although most dispersed throughout the Southeast to establish farms or work on the railroads, enough stayed in Charleston and Savannah to make them, “very Irish” cities.   The Kingdom of Duhare seems to have been located near Charleston.

In the next article

In the second part of the story of Duhare,  I will provide readers eyewitness accounts of the departure of Irish religious refugees from County Leinster and the Scandinavian refugees from Dublin and Wexford.  There is a very sound reason why they were fleeing Ireland in the late 1100s AD.

Soon after writing the Examiner Article, I figured out that Duhare was not near Charleston, as university academicians assumed, but near Savannah. Linguistic and architectural research that I did after May 2011 further backed up Peter Martyr’s description of Duhare. The people of Duhare, itself, eventually joined the Creek Confederacy and probably relocated further inland. The famous Creek town of Tuckabachee, plus the Tugaloo River, the Toccoa River and the Tuckasegee River have root words that are Irish Gaelic.

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