Zelia Nuttall, The Drake Plate of Brass, and the Hunt for Drake's Fair Bay

Lecture | October 9 | 12-1 p.m. | 101 2251 College (Archaeological Research Facility) | Canceled

 Melissa Darby, Visiting Research Scholar, Department of Anthropology, Portland State University

 Archaeological Research Facility

The theory that Francis Drake and the crew of the Golden Hind landed in California was not always universally accepted. In the early twentieth century new clues to Drake’s movements in the Pacific came to light with the findings of anthropologist Zelia Nuttall, one of the founders of the anthropology department at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research in Mexican and European archives led her to the conclusion that Drake landed on the Northwest Coast of America, rather than the oft-cited California shore. This was a turnabout, and the difficulty Nuttall faced was that the early 20th century California historians who published and disseminated patriotic Golden State history found the Northwest Coast landing theory dangerous to the received wisdom—and the cherished belief—that Drake had made landfall on the California coast. In the 1930s just when her theory that Drake was on Northwest Coast was gaining traction it was dramatically eclipsed when the alleged plate made by Drake to mark his land claim was found on a hillside above San Francisco Bay. The plate was a hoax, and the true identity of the hoaxer and his motives have heretofore never been uncovered. Importantly, by the time the plate was found to be fraudulent (1977), the Northwest Coast landing hypothesis had all but been forgotten and is now unimaginable to many scholars. Uncritical acceptance of the dominant paradigm of a California landing is, understandably, the norm. In view of the important and deeply interesting problems involved, the vexed question of where Drake and company landed and repaired the Golden Hind in the summer of 1579 deserves a new analysis.