Coosa Cuisine: The Foodways of a Contact-Era Late-Mississippian Chiefdom

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Pegler, James Robert
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Middle Tennessee State University
In 1540, Hernando De Soto crossed the Appalachians, and he entered one of the most fertile places of his entire expedition, in what is now east Tennessee. This area was the northern portion of the paramount chiefdom of Coosa, and it was an abundant land with much in common with Spain. The Spanish invaders recorded what they witnessed in Coosa and the foodways that they observed. This research looks at what the chroniclers wrote down and why. The abundance and similarity to their homeland left a lasting impression on the veterans of the De Soto expedition, and the De Luna expedition attempted to establish a colony there. However, the De Soto caused distress, disease, and unrest in the Southeast. The decline of Coosa in the twenty years after De Soto left the chiefdom a husk of what it had been, and colonization was abandoned. The discrepancy between the De Luna account of Coosa and the Pardo account shows that the northern portion of the chiefdom of Coosa was a more fertile and desirable region than the capital complex of “Little Egypt.” The Indigenous foodways of this fertile land had lasting impacts on the food culture of the American South that exist to this day.
Coosa, Cuisine, De Soto, Foodways, Indigenous Studies, Mississippian, History, Native American studies, Archaeology