by Max Brantley
Archaeologists with the Arkansas Archeological Survey just announced that they believe they have found the remains of a Christian cross erected at the Indian village of Casqui in 1541 by the Spanish entrada of Hernando de Soto. On Monday, seven archaeologists from the Survey began to excavate on the largest mound at Parkin Archaeological State Park in northeastern Arkansas, the presumed site of Casqui. Remains of what appears to be the cross were recovered on Tuesday.
De Soto and his large force landed in Florida in 1539 and fought their way across the southeastern United States seeking gold and other riches. In late June 1541, they crossed the Mississippi River into what is now Arkansas. The first major village they encountered was Casqui, also the name of its chief. According to the Spanish chronicles, Casqui was suffering from an extended drought and asked for help from the European gods. A dozen or so Dominican priests were part of the expedition. The company’s carpenter, an Italian, was dispatched in search of the “tallest, straightest tree” from which to build a massive cross. On July 4th, 1541, a hundred men raised the cross on top of the largest mound, where Chief Casqui made his home. As many as 2,000 Indians witnessed the event and the Catholic mass that followed.
De Soto, finding no riches at Casqui, soon continued west into Texas.