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.
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?
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