Archaeologists Unearthed A Lost City In Rural Kansas Field

Patricia HofmeesterShutterstock

Donald Blakeslee, an anthropologist and archaeologist professor at Wichita State University, has began piecing together what is perhaps a new view of the traditional thought of the early settlements in the Midwest. He and other researchers are also potentially filling in a major gap in American history. The discoveries leading to this are happening in what may be an unlikely candidate state, Kansas, reports the Los Angeles Times. Archaeologists have uncovered an entire lost city.

During his research, 75 year-old Blakeslee used freshly translated documents, originally written by the Spanish conquistadors over more than 400 years ago, coupled with an array of technology to locate what he believes to be none other than the lost city of Etzanoa. This lost city is thought to have been home to perhaps 20,000 people between the years 1450 and 1700.

Reports say that those 20,000 or more people lived in thatched, beehive-shaped houses. These houses ran for about five miles along the bluffs and banks of the Walnut and Arkansas rivers. The settlement, Blakeslee notes, is the second largest ancient settlement in America. First would be Cahokia in Illinois.

A group being overseen by Blakeslee has been excavating a series of rectangular pits in a local Kansas field, unearthing cooking pots, arrowheads, pottery, and stone scrapers which were used to thin buffalo hides.

Blakeslee says that he became intrigued by Etzanoa after scholars at UC Berkeley retranslated the Spanish accounts of forays into what is now Kansas. These retranslations of the muddled accounts began in 2013, and were far more cogent, vivid, and precise.

“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.”

Many do not think of the conquistadors rummaging about in the Midwest, since they are most often associated with Mexico; however the conquistadors had a thirst for gold that drove them to the Midwest.

The legend of Etzanoa comes from Spanish records beginning with Francisco Vazquez de Coronado coming to central Kansas in 1541, chasing stories of wealthy nobleman “napped beneath trees festooned with tinkling gold bells.” Coronado or course found no gold; he did however, find Native Americans in various settlements that he called Quivira. By 1601, Juan de Oñate brought 70 conquistadors from the Spanish colony of New Mexico and into southern central Kansas, scouting for the Quivira and still hoping to find gold.

Pizarro
Equestrian statue of the conquistador Francisco Pizarro, located on a granite pedestal in the main square of the city, Trujillo, Caceres province, SpainFeatured image credit: felipe caparrosShutterstock

Spanish records say that the conquistadors ran into the Escanxaques, a tribe who told them of a large city nearby where a Spaniard was supposedly imprisoned. The locals called this city Etzanoa.

The Spaniards grew near, finding several grass houses. Their records described the people as sturdy and gentle, saying the people had striped tattoos from their eyes to their ears. Everything was friendly, until the conquistadors began taking hostages. Because of this, the entire city of Etzanoa fled. As the records indicate, the Spaniards hunted the city, eventually leaving for more houses spied in the distance, yet feared an attack from the Etzanoa, thus turning back. Upon turning back, they were ambushed and never returned to New Mexico. When French explorers arrived about a century later, nothing was found.

It is assumed that disease wiped out Etzanoa, thus leaving the city to recede into legend.

Enlisting the help of the National Park Service, Blakeslee used a magnetometer and detected variations in the earth’s magnetic field. This way, he found features that looked like homes, storage pits, and places where fires were started, reports the Los Angeles Times. He has even found what he believes to be the battlefield of the conquistadors.