Lost Metropolis of the Wichita Nation

The ancient city of Etzanoa found near Arkansas City, Kansas by Dr. Donald Blakeslee is under excavation since 2016. Last month a drone using a broad range of technologies mapped and confirmed the site of two thousand dwellings and a ceremonial center that Spanish conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado saw in 1541. Each house would hold 10 people, which makes for a population of 20,000 people. To give a comparison London had 60,000 people at that point in history and Norwich, the second largest English city, 12,000. The Etzanoa settlement was five miles across located at the point the Walnut and Arkansas Rivers meet. The Spanish reported it would take two to three days to walk through.

Building a Wichita Nation Grass Thatched Dwelling 1904 Photo Source: Missouri History Museum

The people of the city of Etzanoa were the ancestors of the present day Wichita Nation, the Kitikiti’sh. Traditionally, they lived in rounded structures made of forked cedar poles covered with a thatch of dried grasses. Francisco Vázquez de Coronado and his troops were amazed to see such a large city, and to find it surrounded by fields of sunflowers, beans, squash and corn. They were looking for gold, not seeing the riches they found. The Spanish did not call them the Wichita or Kitikiti’sh, they called them Los Rayados, for the striped tattoos that the Wichita wore on their faces between their eyes and ears, and named their city Quivira.

Governor of Nuevo México Juan de Oñate went north with troops in 1601, looking for the infamous city of Quivira and its legendary gold described by a tribe they met on the way. He called the tribe the Escanjaques, historians believe they were the people named Aguacane, also Caddo speakers like the Wichita. The Spanish were greeted warmly at Etzanoa, with food, and repaid the demonstration of friendship by taking hostages including the chief. The citizens fled. Their experience was not unique, Oñate had a history of brutal treatment of indigenous people, for which he was criticized by the Crown. By the time the French arrived 100 years later, no traces of the large settlement could be found.

For years many people around Arkansas City have collected the Etzanoa artifacts that would turn up as they dug their garden beds. Sounds like they could fill a museum with all the arrowhead and pottery shards found over the years. A great number of discoveries were made during a recent highway construction project. Adam Ziegler, a Kansas high school student, also found an important artifact; a 1/2 inch diameter cannonball, that proved Arkansas City was the location of a struggle between the Etzanoa residents and the Spanish invaders. Dr. Blakeslee credits a new translation of the Spanish expedition notes by scholars at UC Berkeley in 2013 with giving him the necessary clues to see the ancient city was hidden in plain sight.

Had you heard of the lost city of Etzanoa? Would you like to take a tour, when available?

Gracias for visiting Fake Flamenco! I appreciate your comments. ¡Olé! –Rebecca

Rebecca Cuningham

14 thoughts on “Lost Metropolis of the Wichita Nation

  1. Very interesting. I had never heard of Etzanoa before. Thank you.

    I am somewhat familiar with Juan de Oñate, having lived in New Mexico for ten years. He was more than criticized by the Crown. As the brutal colonial governor of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, Spain banished him from New Mexico, and exiled him from Mexico for 5 years. And this banishment was by a government that was known for its cruelty in occupied lands, which says something about the degree of Oñate’s cruelty. Among his acts was the alleged cutting off of one foot from Indians who rebelled. His statue was defaced, and eventually removed from its pedestal in Santa Fe this year, as Native Americans joined the protests against oppressors that followed George Floyd’s death.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comments! I’m glad he was the *last* conquistador. Yes, Oñate is infamous for the Acoma massacre in 1599. He killed 500 men and 300 women and children in retaliation for the Acoma fighting and killing armed Spaniards in order to retain the food supplies they needed for the winter. Many women survivors were enslaved and at least 24 men had a foot or toes cut off. That was one of 12 crimes for which he was convicted. Gracias for setting straight Oñate’s dark legacy.

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  2. Interesting post Rebecca. I haven’t heard of the Etzanoa and am intrigued. The old postcard and photo are an excellent addition to the post. Without stonework buildings, who knows how many of these indigenous tribes and clans have been missed by archaeologists? Thanks for bringing the Etzanoa to my attention. ~James

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for visiting Fake Flamenco, James. I found your and your wife’s blog this month and I am enjoying it very much. I think you’ve made a good point here that not all housing is made of hard materials like stone, so until very recently archaeologists have skipped over important sites without realizing it. The new scanning technologies like lidar are very good at finding where settlements have been. I look forward to their discoveries in the next decade. More interesting finds to come, I am sure. Your blog is so well crafted, I look forward to learning a lot about the art of blogging from you two. Have you traveled in the SW US and seen Mesa Verde and the Hopi Pueblos? Cheers, R

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rebecca, it’s funny you mentioned Mesa Verde. Last summer before Covid clipped our travel wings, we took a month-long camping trip to the SW US, and one of the places we visited was Mesa Verde. In fact, in a few weeks we’re starting a series on civilizations that have vanished, and one of the posts is specifically on Mesa Verde. That’s a beautiful area and the state of preservation of the ruins is wonderful.

        And BTW, I’m surprised someone hasn’t come up with a drone-mounted LIDAR unit – what a great tool that would be. ~James

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I guessed you might have seen Mesa Verde! It is an amazing site. I am looking forward to your series! Last night we watched a documentary about the Must Farm bronze age settlement. It is near Petersborough, England. The researchers have found fantastic evidence of the weaving, agriculture and trade routes of the people who lived there. Fascinating. Have you visited it by chance?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I haven’t heard of this discovery, and from what I see online, it’s quite impressive. The UK is so rich in history it seems like new discoveries are constantly being made and given the enthusiasm of professionals as well as serious amateurs I don’t see this trend ending. In this respect it really is a small island which makes for an easier search, and hopefully, more success. ~James

        Liked by 1 person

      4. The Must Farm site completely changed the experts understanding of Bronze age Britain from what I gather. The inhabitants had glass beads that were made 2000 miles away! I hope they exhibit the artifacts at a museum near Petersboro. I think the site itself reverted to the farmer who owns the land. People have been creative and adventurous for as long as humans have roamed the globe, it seems.

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