On arriving at Cofitachiqui, De Soto was met by a young woman the Spanish called the “Lady of Cofitachiqui.” According to her, the province had suffered a great pestilence, and she ruled following the death of a male relative.
Cofitachiqui is the name of a sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Native American chiefdom as well as one of the principal towns of that chiefdom. The towns of Cofitachiqui and neighboring Talimeco were located on a bank of the Wateree River below the fall line near Camden. In 1540 Hernando De Soto visited both towns, and between 1566 and 1568 Juan Pardo led expeditions to the province from the Spanish town of Santa Elena. On arriving at Cofitachiqui, De Soto was met by a young woman the Spanish called the “Lady of Cofitachiqui.” According to her, the province had suffered a great pestilence, and she ruled following the death of a male relative. Her realm included the central portion of present-day South Carolina and may have extended to the coast and as far northwest as the Appalachian Mountains. Narratives describe Talimeco with approximately five hundred houses and as the principal town of the province, but it had been abandoned after the epidemic. In this vacant town was a mound surmounted by a large temple covered with woven matting and containing carved wooden statues, the bones of past leaders, and a large number of pearls. At Talimeco the explorers also found Spanish artifacts believed to have come from the ill-fated 1526 colony of Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón. The English explorer Henry Woodward visited Cofitachiqui in 1670, and the last known reference to the town is the name “Cotuchike” on the circa 1685 map drawn by Joel Gascoyne and based on a survey by Maurice Mathews. Scholars differ on the language and ethnic identity of the chiefdom. According to these arguments, the people of the Cofitachiqui spoke either a Muskhogean or a Siouan language. If they spoke Muskhogean, they were likely related to the Creek Indians of Georgia and Alabama, and they probably migrated westward in the late seventeenth century. If, however, they spoke a Siouan language, then the Catawba and related tribes are probably descendants of the chiefdom.
Baker, Steven G. “Cofitachique: Fair Province of Carolina.” Master’s thesis, University of South Carolina, 1974.
DePratter, Chester B. “Cofitachiqui: Ethnohistorical and Archaeological Evidence.” In Studies in South Carolina Archaeology: Essays in Honor of Robert L. Stephenson, edited by Albert C. Goodyear III and Glen T. Hanson. Columbia: South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, 1989.
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Waddell, Gene. “Cofitachiqui.” Carologue 16 (autumn 2000): 8–15.