The lost city of Etzanoa, one of the largest Native American archeological sites in the entire United States, has been opened to the public. Located in Arkansas City, Kansas, experts believe the site may exceed the size of the Cahokia Mounds.
Using new translations of Spanish conquistador documents that were compiled by researchers at the University of California in 2013, anthropologist and archaeology professor Donald Blakeslee was able to link finds in Arkansas City to the lost Native American city of Etzanoa. Locals in the area are said to have found arrow heads, pottery and other artefacts for decades and Blakeslee says the evidence fits the claims in the Spanish documentation.
“I thought, ‘Wow, their eyewitness descriptions are so clear it’s like you were there,’ I wanted to see if the archaeology fit their descriptions. Every single detail matched this place.” – Donald Blakeslee, LA Times
Meaning “The Great Settlement,” Etzanoa is currently believed to be the second-largest Native American city in the United States, with some believing that it may eventually exceed the Cahokia Mounds site near Collinsville, Illinois in terms of size. Discoveries at Etzanoa shed new light on the lives of the Native American tribes, inhabitants of the city having secured industrial levels of bison and secured an industrious urban lifestyle.
“The Spaniards were amazed by the size of Etzanoa, they counted 2,000 houses that could hold 10 people each. They said it would take two or three days to walk through it all.” – Donald Blakeslee, The Wichita Eagle, 2017
It was in the summer of 1601 that Juan de Oñate set out to seek the fabled Quivira, a fabled city of gold. Marching east from what is now Santa Fe, Oñate and his company of 200 soldiers and several cannons discovered Etzanoa, the Spanish being awestruck by its size. A rival tribe of the Etzanoa native Etzanoans had come to attack at precisely the time the Spanish showed up and instead attacked the conquistadors, leaving many killed and wounded as the Spaniards retaliated with cannon.
Local residents say that potentially thousands of artefacts were recovered by locals before the official identification of the site and some historians believe Etzanoa may have been the largest Native American settlement ever built, occupied by up 20,000 people between the 1450s and the 1700s. Despite some initial digs, it wasn’t until 2015 that the true nature of the discovery was known for sure.
“My boss had an entire basement full of pottery and all kinds of artifacts. We’d be out there working and he would recognize a black spot on the ground as an ancient campfire site … I don’t think anyone knew how big this all was. I’m glad they’re finally getting to the bottom of it.” – Russell Bishop, local resident, LA Times
The Etzanoa Conservancy are currently attempting to win recognition for the site and plans are underway for its development, with museum exhibitions and more archaeological expeditions already planned. Donald Blakeslee believes that excavations at the site will continue for decades to come, rewriting the history of the Native Americans of the great plains.
“We’re looking at creating something that could be great for the region, and for 50 years and more down the road and we think the site could also be a hands-on field training facility for archaeologists from all over the world.” – Jay Warren, Arkansas City Council
Formed by the citizens of Cowley County Kansas to support and develop archaeological research, preservation, education and tourism in the surrounding area with an emphasis on Etzanoa, the Conservancy are currently welcoming visitors to the site and further details can be found at the Etzanoa Conservancy‘s website.
Michael East is a writer with a wide variety of eclectic tastes including politics, history, archaeology, professional wrestling and British science-fiction. A former Students' Union President and newspaper editor, he has studied at a variety of institutions and graduated in both history and politics.
He is interested in truth, justice and the unAmerican way. Named as TIME Person of the Year in 2006 and 2011, he is known variously as a rake, a libertine and as the King in the North... if to nobody else but himself.