Berry Site Field School

Exploring Fort San Juan

Archaeological Excavation of a Sixteenth-Century Spanish Fort in Morganton, North Carolina

Dear Berry site participants,

We at the Warren Wilson College Berry Site Field School hope that you, your family, and friends are safe and healthy.

I am very sorry to announce that the 2020 Field School has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are so disappointed that we will be unable to meet you and share the Berry site with you this summer. This would have been our 20th anniversary and we had planned to make it a memorable summer.

We hope that you may be able to join us in 2021 as we plan to celebrate our 20th anniversary in the coming year.

We will return all deposits within the next few weeks. We regret any inconvenience this change causes you. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. Please email me at

All the best,

David Moore

Due to the cancellation of the 2020 Field School, we are doing a virtual field school with photos from the past 19 years of excavation at the Berry site. We will be updating daily here and at the Berry Site Field School Facebook page.

Warren Wilson College offers this field school for credit and non-credit participation, and is open to the public. No experience necessary.

We will be glad to answer any questions you may have about the field school. Please contact David Moore at:

(828) 771-2013

June 1-June 26, 2020

Sign up for 1-4 weeks.

Session Dates

June 1-5

June 8-12

June 15-19

June 22-26


$425 per week for non-credit participation.

$741 per week (1 credit per week) for college credit.

Optional Room and Board

$75 per week (including dinners Monday-Thursday).

About the Berry Site

Following the conquest of the Aztecs in Mexico and the Inka in South America, Spain looked to "La Florida" for more land and riches. Hernando de Soto and his army traveled from Florida through North Carolina in 1540 on their way to the Mississippi River. In 1566, Juan Pardo left the Spanish town of Santa Elena on the South Carolina coast and traveled into North Carolina in search of an overland route to Mexico. Scholars have debated the routes of Soto and Pardo for years but archaeological investigations at the Berry site (31BK22), north of Morganton in Burke County, provide evidence that both of these Spanish expeditions passed through the Catawba River valley.

The Berry site is a large (nearly 12 acres) Mississippian site that dates to the Burke phase (15th and 16th centuries A.D.) and is believed to represent an ancestral Catawba Indian town. We believe this site to be the location of the native town of Joara, at which Pardo built Fort San Juan in 1567 (20 years before the English "Lost Colony" at Roanoke). Native Americans burned the fort down eighteen months later, in 1568. The field school has concentrated on a small area of the site where 16th-century Spanish artifacts, the remains of burned buildings, and the remains of a filled-in Spanish moat have been located. We believe these structures and moat represent the remains of the Spanish settlement of Cuenca and Fort San Juan. Cuenca and Fort San Juan represent the earliest European settlement in the interior of what is now the United States.

In 2013 and 2014 field school participants helped to uncover the first direct evidence of Spanish Fort San Juan, a portion of the moat surrounding the fort. Participants in the 2019 field school will continue to explore new evidence for Fort San Juan, as well as the relationship between the fort, Native village, and Native mound.

Site Directors

Dr. David Moore (above middle) will lead the Summer 2019 archaeology field school at the Berry site. David Moore conducted investigations at the Berry site in 1986, 1995, 1997, and 2001-2018. He has directed numerous field schools since 1978 at the Warren Wilson site (31BN29) and other sites in western North Carolina. His book entitled, Catawba Valley Mississippian: Ceramics, Chronology, and Catawba Indians, has been published by the University of Alabama Press. David received his MA and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and served as the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology's Western Office archaeologist for 18 years before becoming a full-time faculty member at Warren Wilson College.

Dr. Robin Beck (above left), an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Associate Curator of North American Archaeology at the University of Michigan, is co-director of the Berry site field school. Beck is the author of Chiefdoms, Collapse, and Coalescence in the Early American South published by Cambridge University Press, 2013. In 1996, as part of his M.A. project at the University of Alabama, he directed a settlement survey of Upper Creek-Warrior Fork, the tributary of the upper Catawba River along which the Berry site is located. He co-directed a proton magnetometer survey at the Berry site in 1997, and it was during this survey that the burned structures were first identified. He has also worked in the Lake Titicaca Basin of Bolivia and Peru, and from 2000-2001 directed excavations at the site of Alto Pukara in Bolivia as part of his dissertation research.

Dr. Christopher Rodning (above right) is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Tulane University. He is the third co-director of the Berry site field school. His edited volume, Archaeological Studies of Gender in the Southeastern United States (co-edited with Jane Eastman) was published by the University Press of Florida in 2001, and he has a recent book, Center Places and Cherokee Towns, published by the University of Alabama Press in 2015. Chris has been involved in the archaeology of western North Carolina and the Appalachian Summit area since 1994.

The three directors completed Fort San Juan and the Limits of Empire: Colonialism and Household Practice at the Berry Site, an edited volume about the Berry site, in 2016, published by the University Press of Florida.

Dr. Rachel Briggs, Teaching Assistant Professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a new co-director at the Berry site field school. First participating in the Berry site field school in 2003, she has continued to be an important part of the Berry site crew and research team. She completed her PhD on Mississippian foodways and pottery at the University of Alabama in 2017.


Abra Meriwether (B.A. Sociology and Anthropology, Warren Wilson College, 2011) is the Archaeology Laboratory Assistant at Warren Wilson where she helps to direct the Archaeology student work crew and manages the yearly curation tasks associated with the Berry site Field School. She wrote her senior thesis in Sociology and Archaeology on an analysis of post holes at the Berry site. She has been part of the Berry site crew since 2009.