2 weeks ago

Researchers use new technology in bid to solve centuries-old Alabama mystery of Mabila

An ongoing research project is applying cutting-edge satellite technology in a quest to finally pinpoint one of Alabama’s – and North America’s – most important “lost” historic sites.

On Oct. 18, 1540, an armed contingent of Spaniards led by explorer Hernando de Soto savagely attacked Native American warriors led by the famed chieftain Tascalusa. The blood-soaked confrontation decimated Tascalusa’s forces and left the fortified Indian village of Mabila a charred ruin. The number of dead – fewer than 100 Spaniards but as many as 5,000 Indians, according to historic chronicles of the event – puts the carnage on par with or greater than the battle of Antietam during the Civil War as potentially the single deadliest day of combat on North American soil.

As devastating as the fight was to the pre-Alabama natives, the monumental clash also ultimately led to De Soto’s demise. After the battle of Mabila, the infamous conquistador pressed deeper into the wilderness with his battle-weakened troops. De Soto ultimately perished – precisely where is also unknown – and what was left of his army retreated to Mexico.

Nearly five centuries later, the exact location of Mabila – believed to be somewhere in West Alabama, possibly in Clarke or Dallas County – remains elusive, despite multiple efforts to find it. But a Birmingham-based nonprofit, known for using the power of satellite imagery to identify important archaeological sites from Egypt to Peru, is now on the case.

GlobalXplorer was founded by internationally recognized “space archaeologist” Sarah Parcak, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at UAB and a National Geographic Society Archaeology Explorer.

Parcak is also the winner of the 2016 TED Prize, which came with a $1 million award that she used to create GlobalXplorer.

Parcak is a pioneer in using high-resolution satellite imagery to identify subtle patterns on the Earth’s surface that may indicate the location of hidden archaeological sites. Her techniques have helped to locate thousands of potentially significant sites in Egypt as well as important sites connected to the Vikings and the Roman Empire.

Through GlobalXplorer, Parcak and her team trained volunteer “citizen explorers” to scour satellite imagery in Peru to identify, and protect from looters, important ancient ruins. They’ve also, with support from the Alabama Power Foundation, begun to analyze satellite imagery of West Alabama where, in the future, they may locate archaeological sites that will help determine where Mabila might lie.

Chase Childs, GlobalXplorer executive director, said dense tree cover in some sections of West Alabama poses some challenges for using satellite imagery, compared to the open deserts of Egypt. The amount of soil disturbance in west Alabama over the centuries, where native prairie was turned into farmland or cotton plantations, and later became forest or planted tree farms, may also have led to the destruction of some or all of the Mabila site.

Despite the challenges, early analysis, he said, has turned up some intriguing patterns worthy of further, ground-based investigation. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a pause in field expeditions for now.

Childs said GlobalXplorer, following initial investigations on the satellite imagery, will ensure that the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma – the descendants of native Americans who lived in what is now West Alabama and Mississippi but who were forced west in the early 19th century during the infamous Trail of Tears – will be consulted for any potential ground-based work.

“This is a major question remaining for Alabama’s history, and it continues to cause significant debate and discussion in the archaeological community. We are hopeful that the application of these new technologies will help shed light on a potential location for Mabila and help guide future groundwork,” Parcak said.

Childs said more definitive information regarding GlobalXplorer’s findings should be available in a few months. Based on those findings, further research and field studies – by GlobalXplorer or others – will likely be needed to determine if the work has brought the world any closer to locating Mabila. He said the information gathered through this initial phase would be made available to other scholars.

In addition to the scholarly value, finding Mabila could bring an economic boost to west Alabama, drawing visitors and more research dollars to the area, as well as resources to preserve the site, if found.

“One can rightfully say that the lost battle site of Mabila is the predominant historical mystery of the Deep South,” now-retired University of Alabama Professor Jim Knight wrote in “The Search for Mabila,” a 269-page volume about the quest published by the University of Alabama Press. The book, edited by Knight, was the product of a three-day gathering of Mabila scholars hosted by the university in 2006.

Six years ago, Knight participated in a field expedition, also funded by the Alabama Power Foundation, that examined a site along the Alabama River where it was thought De Soto’s troops may have crossed on their way to Mabila. That expedition failed to turn up artifacts that dated the site to around the time of De Soto’s journey.

While that expedition did not blaze a path to Mabila, it did contribute – through process of elimination, if nothing else – to the base of knowledge that may ultimately lead scholars to the site.

For now, the GlobalXplorer project keeps alive the promise of bringing the world closer to the day when the centuries-old mystery of Mabila is solved.

Learn more about GlobalXplorer at https://www.globalxplorer.org/. Learn more about the Alabama Power Foundation at https://powerofgood.com/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

Ivey lights official state Christmas tree – ‘Merry Christmas to each of you’

MONTGOMERY – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Friday took part in the traditional annual lighting of the official State of Alabama Christmas Tree located on the steps of the capitol.

“Let this be a year you do a little bit more, and give a little bit more,” said Governor Ivey to those assembled.

“Merry Christmas to each of you and to all families across Alabama,” she added.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed introduced Ivey at the ceremony and praised her “steady leadership” during a tumultuous year. Ivey later thanked him for his “dedicated leadership” of Alabama’s capital city.


Around 200 citizens braved temperatures in the mid-40s to take in the lighting ceremony. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, masks were required for attendance at the ceremony.

“I’m incredibly grateful we’re able to safely keep this Christmas tradition alive,” Ivey said of the circumstances.

Alabama’s 2020 tree was donated by Robbins Taylor, Sr. of Lowndes County. The Eastern Red Cedar is 35 feet tall and required a crew from the Alabama Department of Transportation for its installation.

Major General David J. Francis, commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, reminded the crowd in attendance that the Christmas standard “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was written from the perspective of a soldier forced to be away from home during World War II.

“This is a great reminder to remember all our service members, including the members of the greatest generation, the deployed members who will not be with their loved ones this holiday season, and the many who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” Francis added.

“Christmas is a direct reminder of the hope we find in Jesus Christ,” mentioned the governor, who makes her Christian faith a mainstay of her public persona.

“Through the birth of a baby boy over two thousand years ago, we can find salvation, peace, and purpose in our lives,” Ivey continued.

“For many of us, including myself, that hope and faith has been what has guided us through these difficult challenges of 2020,” she told the public.

“May God continue to bless our state,” the governor concluded.


Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

7 hours ago

Palmer: Pelosi, Democrats prioritize pot legalization over COVID-19 relief

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) raised eyebrows this week by calling the House of Representatives into session and pushing through votes on legislation that would legalize marijuana and ban private ownership of exotic animals — known as the “Tiger King” bill.

Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) released a scathing statement on Friday decrying Pelosi’s prioritization of these bills over much-needed COVID-19 relief for the American people.

“Speaker Pelosi and her clueless Democrat colleagues have proven over and over again that their top priorities do not include the hardworking Americans who need help to get through this pandemic,” Palmer said.

“This week, their prioritization of pot legalization while people are struggling is a stunning display of partisan politics and shows just how out of touch Democrats are with the American people,” he continued. “The timing of this bill not only reflects a disregard for the businesses that need further relief funding, but also for the rampant mental health and drug overdose issues exacerbated by the pandemic.”


Entitled the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), the marijuana legalization passed the House on Friday by a vote of 228-164. The only Alabama representative to support the measure was Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-07), a Democrat.

“Federal surveys show that since the coronavirus arrived in the U.S., depression and anxiety have been on the rise, with a concerning 75% of young adults now struggling with at least one mental health or drug problem,” Palmer explained. “The Center for Disease Control has also predicted that the U.S. could see 75,500 drug overdose deaths in 2020 if recent trends hold. Pelosi’s pot bill is even more unconscionable with these concerning facts in mind, especially as it ignores common sense safety measures around marijuana use, and also funnels taxpayer dollars to the marijuana industry and convicted drug dealers. In short, the bill would grant easier access to a gateway drug for already vulnerable and struggling people.”

The Central Alabama congressman concluded, “Furthermore, at a time when we should be helping people with employment opportunities, this bill would move us in the wrong direction. Companies with drug-free work environments, many of them also hazardous work environments, should not and will not employ people who might come to work drug-impaired, endangering themselves and others. I hope we don’t waste more opportunities next week for needed relief.”

Palmer, as the chair of the Republican Policy Committee, is the fifth-highest ranking member of the House GOP.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

WWII vet finishes fight with COVID-19, turns 104 the next day

A World War II veteran in Alabama was released from the hospital this week after a battle with the coronavirus. He turned 104 years old on his first day back home.

Major Wooten, the veteran in question, has become something of a minor celebrity in recent years for his joyful approach to life at his advanced age.

Wooten turned heads in recent years during his trip to Normandy to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Similar lines cheered his return to the airport and his exit from the hospital earlier this week.


An ardent Alabama fan, Wooten again made headlines earlier this year when Nick Saban gave him a call after a health scare in the spring.

RELATED: Nick Saban surprises 103-year-old WWII veteran with Facetime call

Wooten is from Cullman and was cared for at Madison Hospital during his fight with COVID-19.

His exit from the hospital has garnered attention across the nation, with the Associated Press publishing a widely circulated story and ABC’s World News Tonight featuring Wooten in a segment.

Watch employees of Madison Hospital sing Happy Birthday to Major Wooten:


Major Wooten turns 104!

Mr. Major Lee Wooten won his battle with COVID-19 in time to be home to celebrate his 104th birthday. Mr. Wooten, who is a veteran and warmly known as “Pop Pop,” is described by his granddaughter as “their family’s treasure.” Please join us in wishing Mr. Wooten a very, happy birthday!

Posted by Madison Hospital on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

8 hours ago

Alabama receives over $50M from Dept. of Interior for energy produced in state

The State of Alabama is receiving $50.29 million from the federal government as a disbursement for energy that was produced in a federally owned area of the state.

Alabama’s funds come as part of a $1.81 billion payout to 34 states announced by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt on Friday.

The revenue sent to states Friday “was collected from oil, gas and mineral production on federal lands within the states’ borders and from offshore oil and gas tracts in federal waters adjacent to their shores,” according to a release from the department.

Virtually all of Alabama’s portion of the money was generated by offshore drilling, per the data available on an Interior Department web portal.


Alabama’s payment was ninth highest in the nation. New Mexico took the top spot with $706.96 million followed by Wyoming, Louisiana, Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, Utah and Mississippi.

American Indian Tribes received $1 billion as part of the process; 100% of the revenue from the energy generated on their lands.

“[T]hese disbursements also go right back to the states and Tribes where the energy was produced, providing critical funding for schools, public services, conservation improvements and infrastructure projects that create good-paying American jobs,” said Bernhardt on Friday.

The over $50 million announced as on its way to Alabama on Friday is the state’s total for fiscal year 2020 that ended September 30. It is the largest amount the state has received under the disbursement policy in the last decade.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

10 hours ago

Aderholt tests positive for COVID-19, is asymptomatic

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Friday announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19 but is displaying no symptoms.

Aderholt originally went into quarantine on November 15 after learning he had been in close contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Right after completing his 10-day quarantine period, Aderholt’s wife, Caroline, tested positive and he once again went into quarantine.

Under new CDC guidelines that allow for a seven-day quarantine if followed by a negative test result, Aderholt on Thursday received a COVID-19 test to ascertain if he could exit quarantine and resume voting on the House floor.

“I fully expected to receive a negative test, because I have felt, and continue to feel fine, and have no symptoms. Unfortunately, I received word Friday morning that my test came back positive. After speaking with the Attending Physician for Congress, I will continue to isolate,” he advised in a statement.


Aderholt also said that his wife has recovered from the virus after experiencing mild symptoms.

During his original quarantine, Aderholt had isolated himself away from his wife and the rest of his family.

The dean of Alabama’s U.S. House delegation, Aderholt is a senior member of the Committee on Appropriations, including serving as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science and as a member of the Agriculture and Rural Development Subcommittee and the Defense Subcommittee.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn