Native Americans that lived on the continent before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors had advanced ‘proto-cities’, claim scientists.
Emerging research has found evidence of a mythical 20,000 strong civilisation called Etzanoa which sits in modern-day Arkansas City, Kansas.
A Spanish horseshoe nail and a pockmarked iron ball fired from a European gun provided evidence of a battle between the Spanish and a local population of Native Americans.
The city has long been described in folklore and further analysis of the site has revealed clusters of houses surrounded by gardens and farms.
This agrees with the eye-witness testimony from many historical records the discovery of Etzanoa challenges conventional thinking about what pre-colonial America looked like.
Etzanoa is described as having 2,000 beehive-shaped houses. The Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate reported each was large enough to house ten people, for an estimated population of 20,000. Shown is a traditional Wichita grass house in a file photo from 1927
Translations from a team of experts in 2013 shed light on the trip of Juan de Oñate, a Spanish conquistador who was also governor of New Mexico, in brilliant detail.
Donald Blakeslee, an archaeologist at Wichita State University in Kansas, has reanalysed these translations to gain a clearer view of the expedition.
‘It’s amending history,’ said Dr Blakeslee.
‘What this find represents is totally against what the history books told us.
‘The Great Plains were originally thought to be sparsely populated, but this suggests that an intricate system of towns and cities dotted the regional map instead.’
Some artefacts found at the site contained rocks and minerals not found in the local area.
‘It is my belief that indigenous groups from the Great Plains traded not only with other groups from the east and west coasts, but with civilisations belonging to Central and South America as well.’
‘It totally rewrites the history books,’ Dr Blakeslee said. ‘It’s a reminder that history is fluid; every answer we uncover just leads to more questions.’
The research began by narrowing down the potential sites of Etzanoa to two locations around Arkansas City in southern Kansas where pottery and arrowheads had been found for decades.
It remained uncleared, until now, if this was from the metropolis or left behind by wandering tribes over the centuries.
‘If you go out there and spend time in the landscape, things fall into place,’ says Dr Blakeslee, according to the New Scientist.
Further analysis involved the use of remote sensing to understand the terrain in greater detail by seeing what lies underneath the surface.
The study revealed the presence of human habitation with clusters of homes and some with gardens.
Some artefacts found at the site contained rocks and minerals not found in the local area. Research of Etzanoa to two locations around Arkansas City in southern Kansas where pottery and arrowheads had been found for decades (pictured)
A man known only as Miguel has long provided the only known map of the lost city (pictured). He was captured by the Escanxaques tribe as a youngster before being taken prisoner by Oñate’s men during the fight between the previously friendly Spaniards and the natives
Translations from a team of experts in 2013 shed light on the trip of Oñate in never-before-seen detail
The Spaniard reported the city had 2,000 large, beehive-shaped houses, each large enough to house ten people, for an estimated population of 20,000.
The cementing discovery which convinced the researchers the site was a permanent one came from a metal detector outing which revealed a Spanish horseshoe nail and a pockmarked iron ball fired from a European gun.
This, Dr Blakeslee says, is evidence of a battle between the Spaniards and the natives and proves it was waged at this specific site.
He also claims a deep rock-lined ravine in the terrain would have been the likely spot of the skirmish.
‘I think it’s obvious at this point [the site is Etzanoa],’ he says.
Houses at the site are thought to have been made of poles stuck into the ground, covered with straw, and closed on top like tents. A deep rock-lined ravine in the area would have been the likely spot of a skirmish between Native Americans and Spanish soldiers
Emerging research has found evidence of a 20,000 strong civilisation called Etzanoa which sits in modern-day Arkansas City (pictured)
Scott Ortman, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, agrees with his colleague.
He added:’Everything I’ve seen of the landscape and archaeology is consistent with Oñate’s descriptions. I’m convinced.’
Juan de Oñate was a Spanish colonist and governor of New Mexico who led an expedition in June 1601 into the Great Plains in search of the fabled ‘city of gold’ Quiviria and stumbled across the Rayados people.
The expedition came across a war party of 300 to 400 natives, whom Oñate called ‘Rayados’, or striped ones, for their body paint and tattoos. They were almost certainly Wichitas.
The two groups found peace and the locals took the Spanish men to their metropolis, known as Etzanoa, which was described by the awe-struck Spaniards as being home to 20,000 people and requiring two days to walk across it.
Fields of corn, beets and squash surrounded the settlement, with large granaries to store the foodstuffs.
A Spanish horseshoe nail and a pockmarked iron ball fired (pictured) from a European gun provided evidence of a battle between the Spanish and a local population of Native Americans and was discovered by a high-school metal detectorist
Donald Blakeslee, an archaeologist at Wichita State University in Kansas, has reanalysed these translations that recounted the adventures of Juan de Oñate, a Spaniard who was governor of New Mexico and said it is ‘amending history’
After seeing the huge expanse of Native American civilisation many of the Spaniards turned around and fled back whence they came.
At this point, the group was ambushed by more than 1,000 natives from another tribe – the Escanxaques.
Centuries of analysis has tried to determine between fact and the liberal embellishment from the Spanish storytellers designed to impress their leaders.
A man known only as Miguel has long provided the only known map of the lost city.
He was captured by the Escanxaques tribe as a youngster before being taken prisoner by Oñate’s men during the fight between the previously friendly Spaniards and the natives.
WHO WAS JUAN DE ONATE?
Juan de Oñate (pictured) was a conquistador from Spain who became the governor of New Mexico
Juan de Oñate was a conquistador from Spain who became the governor of New Mexico.
In June 1601 he led an expedition to search for the fabled city of Quivira.
Quivira was a myth which spoke of untold riches and gold residing in a city near an undiscovered coast.
Although he never located the mythical town he did encounter a friendly tribe known as the Escanxaques.
The Spaniards made friends with these people but also had the occasional disagreement and scrap.
Evidence of this has been rumoured to have been found at the site of Etzanoa, near modern-day Arkansas City.
Oñate’s men captured a prisoner on one of these battles who had previously lived with the Escanxaques after being taken from his homeland as a young boy.
This individual, known as Miguel, provided a map and testimony of the existence and landscape of the city of Etzanoa, which has been since lost to time.
He had already garnered a vicious reputation thanks to a bloody encounter two years previously.
In 1599 he lost his nephew to the famed Acoma massacre which led to the death of thirteen Spaniards.
Oñate retaliated with a brutal revenge attack on the Acoma people and had his army slay between 800 and 1,000 members of the native American tribe.
Of the 500 survivors, most were sentenced to a future of servitude which constituted hard manual labour.
He also mandated that all men over the age of twenty-five have a foot cut off.
This vicious act led to his exile and he was forced out of Mexico City for five years for using ‘excessive force’ against the Acoma people.
A statue off him still exists in Alcalde, New Mexico, and he remains a divisive figure.
In 1998, the right foot was cut off in protest.
A statue of Juan de Oñate him still exists in Alcalde, New Mexico (pictured), and he remains a divisive figure. He was forced out of Mexico City for five years for ‘excessive force’ against the Acoma people
After returning to Mexico city with his captors, he drew a map of the settlement and gave testimony on its existence.
This became known as the ‘Miguel map’, but contemporary efforts to discover the mythical city have thus far been fruitless.
The latest work by Dr Blakeslee, however, changes the understanding of how native American societies operated and opens the possibility that they shunned the nomadic life of bison hunting for a more advanced form of civilisation.
Plans are now in place to turn the region into a living memory of the once great settlement.
Authorities are hoping to build a visitor’s centre and to eventually obtain UNESCO world heritage status.
If the findings are able to be verified with quantitative analysis that it was in fact a permanent settlement, Etzanoa would become the second-largest prehistoric settlement ever found in North America.
Cahokia, a city of at least 20,000 people in modern-day Illinois, is believed to be the first.
‘Etzanoa is not visually compelling in the same way as some of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, but the human story it conveys is just as interesting,’ Dr Blakeslee said.
‘Big and well-organised communities don’t always leave behind an obvious archaeological record.
‘To me, that raises the question of how many other cases like this are out there.’
WHEN DID HUMANS ARRIVE IN NORTH AMERICA?
It is widely accepted that the earliest settlers crossed from what is now Russia into Alaska via an ancient land bridge spanning the Bering Strait which was submerged at the end of the last Ice Age.
Issues such as whether there was one founding group or several, when they arrived, and what happened next have been the subject of extensive debate.
The earliest evidence of human settlers on the continent dates to around 14,000 years ago, with the remains of an ancient village found ‘older than Egyptian pyramids’ found in April 2017.
A recent study using ancient DNA (six) suggests humans arrived to North America 25,000 years ago (two) before splitting into three Native American groups (three and four). The DNA came from a girl who belonged to a group called the ‘Ancient Beringians’
Artefacts uncovered at the settlement, found on Triquet Island 310 miles (500km) northwest of Victoria, Canada, include tools for creating fires and fishing hooks and spears dating from the Ice Age.
Other research has suggested that humans reached North America between 24,000 and 40,000 years ago.
A 24,000-year-old horse jaw bone found in January 2017 in a cave in Alaska had the marks of stone tools, suggesting it was hunted by humans.