In March 2011, in the town of San Salvador in the department of Soriano, in Uruguay, a port founded in 1527 by Sebastián Gaboto.
The discovery of the port is curious since it was the current departmental mayor, José Luis Gómez, who found in the river the remains of the existence of a 16th century port thanks to his love of diving.
He was the one who notified the Heritage Commission and a team of archaeologists went to the place and discovered more pieces and structures at ground level. It is the first European settlement in the Río de la Plata, as explained by the anthropologist José López Mazz, who is part of the Heritage Commission and is a professor in the Department of Archeology of the Faculty of Humanities. López Mazz confirms that the evidence is final and that the remains were part of Puerto de las Naos, where the town and the fort of San Salvador settled.
The government wishes integrate the archaeological find into river tourism plans being prepared jointly by the Ministry of Tourism and the department of Soriano and the possibility of making a museum at the excavation site, although there is some concern since there is no patrimonial police and therefore it is expected that the community itself will look after the historical assets.
The archaeological site is located on the San Salvador river, two and a half kilometers from the mouth of the Uruguay River.
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Among the finds are indigenous and European ceramics, artillery pieces, cannons and muskets, hemp ropes used in ancient boats, iron nails and elements that were used to measure the depth of rivers. There's also remains of a house and ballast stones that the ships used in the lower part to maintain stability.
The arrival of Sebastián Gaboto to the Río de la Plata in 1527 is considered the beginning of the European conquest of the territory. The settlements were created in San Lázaro, which has not yet been found, San Salvador and Sancti Spiritus, which they linked the Río de la Plata with the Paraná river. In 1574, Juan Ortíz de Zárate, chose the place to found the city of San Salvador and families, livestock and belongings moved there.
A scientific article written by López Mazz highlights that the finding of Guaraní and European ceramics is the material correlate of the political alliances between indigenous and Europeans to defend the territory. «The port was used to leave large ships, it was divided by the river in order to look for the famous metals of the Andes, with boats of less draft«, Explained López Mazz.
Archaeologists have used techniques such as prospecting and excavation, as well as geophysics and other technologies for underwater search.
The first search campaigns in 2011 gave archaeologists two visible burials and with different techniques. One arranged as a "package" and the other lay kneeling and included a grave goods with ceramic beads.
In 1526, Sebastián Gaboto arrived on the island of Santa Catalina and found two castaways from the Juan Díaz de Solís expedition, which narrate the existence of a region in which gold and silver abound, which modified the original route of Gaboto, which went to the Philippines, arriving at a port on the mainland which they called San Lázaro.
Due to the storms they suffered, they had to locate a safer port and navigating the Uruguay River they reached the San Salvador River, where they anchored their ships. The Puerto de las Naos it was established at the end of May 1527. This first quasi-permanent Spanish settlement had a guard of 30 men.