Theodor de Bry
Theodor de Bry (Franco-Flemish 1528 – 1598), after Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (c. 1533 – c. 1588), Hunting Alligators, 1591, Engraving, Museum purchase in honor of Congressman Charles E. Bennett, AP.2002.1.3.
The Timucua, the inhabitants of the north Florida region since 3000 BCE, once numbered 200,000 – 300,000. They faced multiple encounters with foreigners: first, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León, who arrived in 1513, then Franciscan missionaries, followed by the English in the early 1700s. As a result, most of the Timucua perished or were assimilated into the Seminole tribe in the Everglades. The last known Timucua person, Juan Alonso Cabale, died in Cuba in 1767.
The most comprehensive record of the Timucua comes from French explorers. In 1564, under the guidance of René Laudonnière, they attempted to establish a colony at Fort Caroline, and an illustrated account of that event was chronicled in the volume A Brief History of Those Things Which Befell the French in Florida (1591). Despite many errors that are visible to historians, this publication is considered to be an important text in the history of exploration. According to the text, the Timucua would plunge a pointed tree trunk, 10 to 12 feet long, into an alligator’s open mouth, flip it onto its back, and butcher it. The text goes on to say, “These animals trouble them so much that they have to keep a watch against them at night and sometimes even in the day, as if they were guarding against some dreadful enemy.”