Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center is hosting an exhibit about the earliest European presence and contact with Native Americans in Western North Carolina.
The “Uncovering Our Forgotten Past: Fort San Juan” exhibit features artifacts from and displays about an archaeological site in Burke County that in the 1500s was a large Native America settlement and, in 1567, a fort established by Spanish explorer Juan Pardo.
Archaeologists have been excavating an area near Morganton now confirmed to be Joara, which was a thriving Native American township established around 1400. Conquistador Hernando DeSoto visited in 1540, with the subsequent arrival of Pardo and a contingent of soldiers leading to building the first and largest in a series of fortifications in the region.
The exhibit was developed as part of a commemoration of the 450th anniversary of the Pardo expedition and is on loan from the Exploring Joara Foundation, a nonprofit public archeology group based in Morganton.
The Mountain Heritage Center gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call the Mountain Heritage Center at 828-227-7129.