Archaeologists Discover Lost Indian City in Kansas
KANSAS — August 21, 2018
Locals of the great plains area, near Arkansas City, Kansas, have long combed the fields and banks of the river, finding arrowheads and bits of pottery, amassing huge collections of ancient relics. A few years ago, however, Donald Blakeslee, an anthropologist, and Professor of Archaeology at Wichita State University decided to investigate all these findings. What he found prompted him to rethink traditional views of the early settlement of the Midwest and fill a major gap in American history.
According to the freshly translated documents, written by the Spanish conquistadors more than 400 years ago, archaeologists discovered what they believe to be the lost city of Etzanoa, home to perhaps 20,000 people between 1450 and 1700. Etzanoa was thought to cover some five square miles. But that, says Blakeslee, may not be at all accurate.
Blakeslee said he became interested in this area when in 2013 scientists at the University of California-Berkeley translated the stories of the Spaniards about their raids on the settlements located in the territory of modern Kansas.
According to the scientists' data, they lived in thatched, beehive-shaped houses that ran for at least five miles along the bluffs and banks of the Walnut and Arkansas rivers. Blakeslee says the site is the second-largest ancient settlement in the country after Cahokia in Illinois.
“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,” he said. “Every single detail matched this place.”
According to the Mysterious Universe report, the city of Etzanoa has highly developed and big -- at least five miles across. Blakeslee says that the approximately 20,000 inhabitants of Etzanoa possessed the infrastructure for processing “industrial quantities” of bison, likely spoke multiple languages and traded at great distances. This, he says, shatters the “Hollywood image” of native people in the great plains. The ancestors of the Wichita who lived in this city — and, Blakeslee thinks, many other cities like it in the region — were an urban, industrious people, a far cry from the popular conception of the early indigenous peoples of North America.
Conquistadors are often associated with Mexico, but a thirst for gold drove them into the Midwest as well. It was in 1601.
According to the archaeologists' data, the locals were described as a sturdy people with gentle dispositions and stripes tattooed from their eyes to their ears. It was a friendly encounter until the conquistadors, led by the Governor of the province of New Mexico, Juan de Oñate, decided to take hostages. That prompted the entire city to flee.
A few days later, 1,500 members of a tribe called the Escanxaques ambushed the Spaniards. After that, the battle began between them, and the conquistadors had to retreat back to New Mexico.
French explorers arrived a century later but found nothing. An unknown disease likely wiped out Etzanoa, leaving it to recede into legend.
As archaeologists have found out the field of this battle was right in the backyard of a local 71-year-old resident Warren McLeod. Volunteers using metal detectors found three half-inch iron balls under the field. Blakeslee said they were 17th-century Spanish cartridge shot fired from a cannon. A Spanish horseshoe nail was also found.
“It’s a great story,” he said. “There was a lost city right under our noses.”
According to Blakeslee, before the above events, the Indians of that time built large cities, cultivated crops, made pottery, bred bison and maintained trade relations even with the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in Mexico.
In particular, in 1994, thousands of relics were unearthed during road construction. In 1959, the renowned archaeologist Waldo Wedel wrote in his classic book, “An Introduction to Kansas Archeology,” that the valley floor and bluffs here “were littered with shards, flints, and other detritus” that went on for miles.
“Now we know why,” McLeod said. “There were 20,000 people living here for over 200 years.”
Scientists still have a lot to learn, for example, as far as how the locals were organized.
"How exactly were they engaged in agriculture?" Blakeslee said. "Questions continue to arise."