Most native peoples in South Carolina lived in permanent or semipermanent villages centered around agriculture. Niger Map Tourist Attractions Beans, corn, and squash were the main crops. Agriculture and domestic life were the exclusive province of women, while men engaged in a separate sphere of activities, including hunting, warfare, trade, and diplomacy. The clan was the basic unit of native society, and through one’s clan an association almost always passed down through the mother one gained access to a wide-ranging network of kin. Clan membership guided marriage choices and prescribed punishments for crimes.
Numerous and often complex ceremonies accompanied many different aspects of native life. In the first half of the sixteenth century, Spanish conquistadors and explorers began to spread out from their base of operations in the Caribbean. From 1539 to 1542, largely as a result of Cabeza de Vaca’s reports of his improbable journey and exaggerated riches in the interior Southeast, Hernando de Soto launched an exploratory probe, an entrada, into the area.
In what later would become South Carolina, de Soto’s army came across the paramount chiefdom of Cofitachequi, ruled by a woman, the Lady of Cofitachequi. Upon his arrival in Cofitachequi, de Soto appears to have received treatment befitting a dignitary. Following protocol established at other points in the entrada, however, he took several Cofitachequis hostage to ensure safe passage through the chiefdom. Although he found the pearls of Cofitachequi irregular and small, he also ordered his soldiers to raid a burial site and remove a large quantity of pearls from the body cavities of deceased natives. Thus, de Soto’s party soon wore out its welcome.