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Uncovering Columbus' chambers.

There soon may be a sign on the north coast of the Dominican Republic pointing toward an excavation and stating: "Columbus Slept Here."

The site is called La Isabela--supposedly named by Columbus himself--and is located on the northwest coast one mile from the mouth of the Bajabonica River.

Archeologists claim that it was here in 1493, on his second voyage, that Columbus chose to establish his first permanent colony in the New World. In 1496, he returned to Spain to defend his management of the enterprise. Two years later, exhausted by illness, dissention and hostility from the native Taino Indians, the Spaniards abandoned La Isabela and founded a new capital at Santo Domingo on the southern coast of Hispaniola.

El Castillo, the fishing village near the ruins, has no electricity or running water and lies at the end of a bumpy 20-mile road from the nearest town of any size. However, that did not deter an archeological team under the direction of Dr. Jose M. Cruxent, a Venezuelan, from undertaking the first systematic exploration of La Isabela.

For three years the archeological team has scraped away five centuries of decay and jungle growth to lay bare the stone foundations of the main structures of La Isabela. They have restored the ruins of a large storehouse, a watch tower and sentry posts, a hospital, a church, and the house of the Great Navigator himself.

Also found was the nearby quarry where colonists cut stone for the fort; an oven in which they fashioned shot for their cannons; a kiln where they fired ceramics; and the fragments of earthenware plates and bowls from which Columbus probably ate.

The archeologist have also uncovered a chamberpot. Columbus' own?

Helping in the project are archeology teams from the University of Florida under the leadership of Dr. Kathleen Deagan, curator of anthropology at the Florida Museum of Natural History at Gainsville.

"Isabela is the gem of Columbus archeology," Dr. Deagan said. "It lets us look at how the Spaniards first began to cope with the American environment and began to develop many of their concepts and methods of colonization."

The aim of the archeological teams working at La Isabela is to reconstruct the outlines of the first Spanish capital in the Indies in time for the five hundredth anniversay of Columbus' voyage of discovery in 1492. At the same time, they wish to learn more about how the 1,500 soldiers, sailors and settlers accompanying Columbus coped in the strange and exotic environment of the New World and why their colony collapsed and was abandoned in only five years.
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Title Annotation:Americas: !Ojo!; excavation of Christopher Columbus' first settlement in the Dominican Republic
Author:Goethals, Henry
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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