The history of the New World has become increasingly interesting in the past few months with evidence people were here 130,000 years ago. Now, the fabled city of Etzanoa, known to have between the 15th and 17th centuries, has been discovered near Arkansas City in Kansas. Native American cities in the borders of what are now the United States and Canada are very thought to be very rare. All of the major Native American civilizations were to the south such as the Aztecs, Mayans and Incans. Although those cultures had advanced agriculture systems to support their cities, most Native Americans in the north were hunter gatherers. The one notable exception to this rule has always been Cahokia, the settlement of the Mississippian culture whose mounds resemble the large pyramid based cities to the south. Now, there is evidence that Etzanoa may have been even larger.
Etzanoa was known to Spanish explorers who visited it in 1601. They passed through the town and when they got to Mexico City after that, they recorded their observations. These obersvations were kept in the Spanish city of Seville and were recently translated again. This new translation helped aid the discovery by archaeologists after being published through the Cibola Project at the University of California, Berkeley.
In these accounts, according to the principal archaeologist from Wichita State University, responsible for the discovery:
“The new translations are just wonderful, they are much cleaner than all the previous attempts,” said Blakeslee, adding that earlier historians thought the Spanish were exaggerating the size of Etzanoa. “The Spanish who were there in 1601 counted 2,000 houses and estimated 10 people per house,” he said. – Via Fox News
This would rival Cahokia in size. Cahokia is estimated to have had between 6,000 and 40,000 residents depending on the season. Cahokia is about 6 square miles in size and Etzanoa would be around 5 square miles so they would have been similar. The one big difference is the monumental architecture of Cahokia which is lacking in Etzanoa.
By the time the area was settled in the late 18th century, the city was gone. When the Spanish encountered the city for the first time, they were caught up in a battle with a neighboring tribe. According to historians:
The attackers were Escanxaques, a tribe enemy to the Wichita. They had come to attack Etzanoa — and then attacked the Spanish.
Sixty of the 70 Spaniards were wounded. Their four cannons saved them. The Escanxaques regrouped in a rock-lined ravine, but then charged repeatedly uphill to attack before finally backing off. – Via MSNBC
Although local warfare may have reduced the population a bit, most historians attribute the decline of the city to European diseases, mostly smallpox which would have wiped out most of the population before settlers would have arrived.
The Whichita People
There are only around 3,000 modern-day Wichitas which are based in Anadarko, OK. Many are interested to see if Etzanoa may prove to be a popular tourist attraction, like Cahokia which brings in around 400,000 tourists per year. Many in the Wichita community see it as an opportunity to revive their legacy, which has been largely assimilated into American culture. In fact, the last native speaker of the Wichita language, Doris Mclemore, passed away last year.