Archaeologists have unearthed the site of a lost city in the most unlikely of places. This civilization wasn’t found in the thick undergrowth of the jungle, nor was it guarded by evil spirits. It was discovered in an unassuming rural field in the heart of the US.
The Los Angeles Times recently talked to Donald Blakeslee, a Wichita State University professor, who discovered the lost city of Etzanoa in Arkansas City, Kansas, not far from the Oklahoma border. This settlement might have been one of the largest Native American settlements ever built, second only to one in Cahokia, Illinois. Spanish colonialists had written about the city’s vast size and complexity, however, the town had vanished with little trace by 1700.
“The Spaniards were amazed by the size of Etzanoa,” Blakeslee told The Wichita Eagle last year. “They counted 2,000 houses that could hold 10 people each. They said it would take two or three days to walk through it all.”
In 2015, Blakeslee and a team of his students were excavating near Arkansas City when they unearthed a mud-covered rusty piece of metal. Locals have discovered literally tons of metal artifacts in this field over the years, however, something about this discovery clicked in Blakeslee’s mind: the nail looked as if it had been flung from the cannon of a Spanish conquistador.
The descriptions of the town by the Spanish conquistadors explain that a massive battle occurred there in 1601. Driven by their lust for gold and the desire to convert natives to Christianity, conquistadors headed from New Mexico up to the Midwest. Here, they came across the vast settlement of Etzanoa, complete with beehive-shaped thatched houses divided by gardens of vegetables and flowers.
However, the Spanish accounts say that the people of Etzanoa threw a 1,500-strong ambush at them. Fighting broke out, guns and cannons were fired, and the Spanish left. Over 100 years later, when another group of European colonizers came to the area, the people of Etzanoa were gone. A retranslation of the accounts in 2013 helped to shed some light on the exact locations of the battle and Etzanoa. Using this re-analysis of the documents, Blakeslee argues that the field in Arkansas City is indeed the site of the 1601 battle at Etzanoa.
Still, not much is known about the people of Etzanoa, although most anthropologists believe that these natives are associated with the Wichita Nation.
However, if you're interested in learning more about this site, it's now open to visitors after several years of archaeological work.