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When the invaded Florida in 1539 and marauded through today’s Southeast USA for three years, it may have been history’s most destructive expedition; it laid waste to the entire region, mainly from the diseases they left behind. One native empire had already been when Soto passed through, so even then, Soto intruded upon a far from unsullied land, but the chroniclers of that expedition, as bent as they were for plunder, described intriguing peoples, ones who seemed largely at peace with their neighbors, although warfare was not unknown and apparently increased as populations became more dense. Soto was about the first and last European to see the Mississippian culture, which had flourished for several centuries before becoming extinct from European invasion and disease. Some mounds are several thousand years old. The Mississippian period began declining a century before Soto showed up. Why they declined is one of archeology’s current mysteries, and there are educated about what it was like then. It is not unreasonable to wonder if European epidemics washed through the Mississippian culture as early as the 1518 smallpox epidemic that raged through Mesoamerica and carried off millions of people, or even the unrecorded slavers that hit the Florida coastline before Ponce de León’s of 1513.

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