On an Indian mound in South Carolina sat the legendary temple at Cofitachiqui, described by explorer Hernando de Soto nearly five centuries ago and lost to time.

Entering the temple, de Soto's men walked a gantlet of 12 huge wooden figures of armed warriors, beneath a thatched roof above wattle-and-daub walls and past rooms of weapons, the tombs of chiefs and chests of so many pearls that it was said 300 horses could not have carried the treasures, according to accounts.

The temple was a luxurious 100 paces long and 40 paces wide, adorned with woven cane mats, seashells and pearls.

The temple sat at the center of a village of 500 houses and was "among the grandest and most wonderful of all things he had seen in the New World," according to a scribe's story of an eyewitness account in the 1540 expedition.

For years, Cofitachiqui was the stuff of myths. Researchers today think it was a Catawba village in the Midlands. It's believed to have been located on one of a series of mounds that have been identified along the Wateree River near Camden.

Chester DePratter, of the S.C. Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, has traced the route of the de Soto expedition through that location.