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Timeline: Prehistoric Era and Early History

Prehistoric Era 1500s 1600s Early 1700s

This section of GeorgiaInfo correlates with Georgia Performance Standard SS8H1

Prehistoric Era

The Paleo Indian period lasted from circa 10,000 BC to circa 8000 BC.

The Archaic Indian period lasted from 8000 BC to 1000 BC.

The Woodland Indian period lasted from 1000 BC to 1000 AD.

The Mississippian Indian period lasted from circa 1000-1600; these were the Indians who met the European explorers and settlers, and from whom descended the Cherokees, Creeks, Seminoles, and other Native American tribes.


1526 Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon sailed with 600 other Spanish settlers from Hispaniola, intending to colonize the land called La Florida. They eventually landed in what is now McIntosh County, Georgia, and started construction on a settlement called San Miguel de Gualdape. But Ayllon died soon after landing, and cold weather, illness, death, slave revolt, and Indian opposition doomed the colonization attempt to failure. Only 150 of the original settlers returned to Hispaniola.

1524 Giovanni de Verrazano sailed up the east coast, staking a French claim to the lands he saw - including the Southeast and what is now Georgia.

For more on Hernando de Soto in Georgia, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

1540 Spaniard Hernando de Soto and 600 followers had begun a trek of exploration and treasure seeking in western Florida the previous year; they crossed into what is now Georgia in 1540. The journey was disastrous, for both the Spanish and the Indians they encountered. They were constantly short of food, and often took it from native Indians. The Indians had never seen the guns and steel weapons of the Spanish, and were virtually helpless to stop them. Even more destructive were the diseases (measles, chicken pox, smallpox) carried by the Spanish, to which the Indians had no immunity. Smallpox alone killed approximately one-third of the Southeastern Indians. Nearly half of de Soto’s crew, including de Soto himself, died on the journey, from disease, starvation, exposure, or Indian attacks.

1559 Using de Soto’s expedition as a claim to the land, Spaniard Tristan de Luna tried to create an inland colony near Coosa in what is now northwest Georgia. This effort also failed and the colonists returned to Mexico by 1561.

1562 Frenchman Jean Ribault led a party of 150 Huguenots (French Protestants) in an expedition which landed first on Florida’s east coast. Looking for a place to settle to the north, they found a protected inlet near what is now Savannah, which he named Port Royal. Here the French built Charles Fort, the first European fort on the North American mainland. Two years later more Huguenots arrived, and they built Fort Caroline on the St. John’s River, where present day Jacksonville, FL resides.

For more on Santa Catalina de Guale, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

1565 Pedro Menendez and a large force of Spanish soldiers captured Fort Caroline and executed the Huguenots, then the Spanish founded St. Augustine. Soon thereafter they began establishing missions along the Georgia coast. This Spanish area of Georgia was eventually divided into two provinces - Guale (between the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers) and Mocama (between the Altamaha and St. Marys Rivers). 38 missions were ultimately established in these provinces, the most notable being Santa Catalina de Guale on St. Catherines Island. Depite their best efforts, the Spanish had little success in converting the Indians to Christianity.

1597 Don Juanillo, a Guale Indian chief, led a rebellion against the Spanish when the Spanish tried to deny his claims to leadership because he had two wives. He organized other Guale cheifs to oust the Spanish, and they started attacking the missions, which fell one by one until they reached Cumberland Island, where Spanish supporters among the Mocama Indians helped stop the rebellion. The missions would gradually be re-established.


While Spain and France had been the primary claimants to the land that is now Georgia, England also had staked a claim based on 1497 and 1498 explorations by John Cabot. English ships raided Spanish ships and settlements in various parts of the New World, culminating with Sir Francis Drake sacking and burning St. Augustine in 1586. Finally in the early 1600s England began establishing colonies of their own, beginning with Jamestown in 1607.

Meanwhile, the Spanish were trying to re-establish their line of missions in what is now Georgia; many had been destroyed or abandoned during the Juanillo rebellion of 1597.

1663 With some colonies well established to the north, the British established the colony of Carolina in 1663, claiming the 31st parallel as its southern boundary (this is Georgia’s current southern boundary), later extending that claim southward to the 29th parallel. This claim included all of what is now Georgia.

1670 Charles Town (later Charleston) was settled. Carolina traders soon began trading with the Indians along the Savannah River, angering the Spanish.

1673 French explorers sailed south down the Mississippi River, eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Once this had been accomplished, they began trading with the Indians and trying to extend French influence eastward.

1680 The English attacked the Spanish mission on St. Catherines Island. The Spanish were able to hold off the attack, but then retreated to a more secure locataion on Sapelo Island. Because of English threats, Indian attacks, and general unsuccessful attempts at converting the Indians, all Spanish missions had been abandoned by 1685, though the Spanish still claimed the land.

So by 1700 three countries - England, Spain, France - all had laid claim to the land that is now Georgia; it was called “the debatable land.”

Early 1700s

1712 Carolina had been divided into two colonies - North and South Carolina.

1715 The Yamassee Indians revolted against the English, killing a considerable number of settlers. The revolt was put down, with the Indians fleeing to Florida, but the revolt did reinforce the idea that some sort of “buffer” was needed between South Carolina and Spanish Florida.

For an image of the Azilia proposal, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

1717 The first serious proposal aimed at creating such a colony was by Sir Robert Montgomery; he proposed a colony designed to act as a buffer and to produce silk, wine, and other products for export to England. He wanted to call the colony Azilia, but was unable to raise money or entice colonists for his proposed colony.

1720 John Barnwell convinced England to attempt to build a series of forts along Carolina’s southern and western frontier. The English government agreed, and in 1721 began construction of Fort King George near the mouth of the Altamaha River. But the hot climate, sickness, and constant threat from the Spanish made the soldiers stationed there very unhappy, and the fort was abandoned by 1727.

1724 Another proposal to colonize the area was put forth by Jean Pierre Purry of Switzerland. While his proposal got no further towards realization than Montgomery’s Azilia proposal, the name that Purry chose did stick. In honor of King George, he called the name of the colony “Georgia.”

For more on James Oglethorpe, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

While all these failed attempts took place, an idealistic young member of Parliament in England had taken notice of the atrocious conditions of British prisons, particularly for debtors who were often there because of reasons beyond their control. He developed an idea to deal with two problems at once - relieving the overcrowded debtor prisons by using some of the men as colonists to establish the buffer colony needed south of South Carolina. By 1732, this young member of Parliament - James Oglethorpe - along with an influential group of supporters, had convinced King George II to approve their plan for a new colony south of the Savannah River - to be called Georgia.

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