Another of the “lost cities” of North America may have been found, according to Dr. Donald Blakeslee, an archaeologist at Wichita State University.

The Wichita Indians who discovered Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in 1541 and Juan de Oñate y Salazar in 1601, according to archaeological evidence, had been farming since 900 CE. The Indians who encountered the Spanish intruders lived in fairly big cities for the times. Coronado called the city he visited Quivira; Oñate found his way to an urban center he called Etzanoa.

The Spanish were looking for the “Seven Cities of Gold,” which in hindsight were probably inventions of various Indians to get rid visitors who were eating their food, raping their women, and forcing them to labor for the benefit of Spain. Not finding the golden cities, the Spanish explorers were less than exact in explaining the locations they had visited. That inexactness let to disputes that play out today among archaeologists and those of us who observe archaeologists in their native habitats.

Blakeslee believes he has found the location of Etzanoa near the confluence of the Arkansas and Walnut Rivers in southern Kansas. If the Spanish estimates are correct, Etzanoa would have been an urban center with a population that would rival Cahokia. Etzanoa does not, however, contain any public spaces the size of the Cahokia mounds. The distinctive Wichita dwellings—they look like wooden and straw beehives—contain little that would not weather away with time, leaving only traces archaeologists would have to get down in the dirt to find.

The conquistador was stunned by the city's size. Though the rest of the tribe had fled Etzanoa for hiding at Oñate's arrival, he saw a sprawling settlement across thousands of acres along the bluffs of the confluence of two rivers.

The only recorded accounts of Etzanoa come from the expedition of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate, who in 1601 led a party into the Great Plains in search of a fabled 'city of gold' The Spaniard reported the city had 2,000 large, beehive-shaped houses, each large enough to house 10 people, for an estimated population of 20,000.

That would make Etzanoa comparable in size to Cahokia, in Illinois, long considered the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico City.

Growing nervous at the size of the population they stumbled across, Oñate's party of roughly 100 men turned back, retracing their steps southward. Experts believe that smallpox and other diseases may have raced through the dense settlement after contact with the Europeans, wiping out the city.

Blakeslee continues to dig, and is pushing for the creation of an information center or museum to develop tourism in the area.

He's also been in touch with the modern-day Wichita, who number around 3,000.

'We’re really proud that all this history happened here, and we want to share it with the world,' said Hap McLeod, who owns the property where the cannon shot was found.

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