Fernbank launched a new research and public education program in 2006 aimed at discovering traces of the 17th-century Spanish mission known as Santa Isabel de Utinahica. Scientific colleagues, students, teachers, and other archaeology enthusiasts have been a crucial part of the ongoing investigation.
Important-and often surprising-new findings have been generated by the project that has examined four different sites. Most significantly, one site has produced far earlier evidence of Spanish contact than was expected. Distinctive artifacts of glass and metal establish that the area was visited by exploring Spanish before 1550 and very likely by the conquistador Hernando de Soto. Other findings reveal a great deal about Native American Indian communities along the lower Ocmulgee River.