Category Archives: U.S.A

Kansas Archaeologist Rediscovers Lost Native American City

Kansas Archaeologist Rediscovers Lost Native American City

A conqueror named Juan de Oñate led an expedition of 200 soldiers in 1601 into uncharted territories of what is today the state of Kansas.

Along with the soldiers and canons, the group was accompanied by a number of priests as well as adventurers who were attracted by the expedition’s final goal ― the legendary city of Quivira, whose streets were allegedly paved with gold.

Before Oñate chose to venture into the Great Plains, two other conquistadors ― Antonio Gutiérrez de Humana and Francisco Leyva de Bonilla ― already lost their lives there in 1594, while embarking on a similar quest.

Juan de Oñate, first Governor of New Spain.

But Oñate’s thirst for fame and riches, as well as an appetite for terror, led him and his posse deep into the unknown where he indeed discovered a large settlement, but it wasn’t exactly what he expected.

More than 400 years later, archaeologists from the Wichita State University flocked around a site which they believe was the place where Oñate found his Quivira, or Etzanoa, as it was known to the Native Americans.

Oñate’s 1605 “signature graffiti” on Inscription Rock, in El Morro National Monument.

Located in southern Kansas, at the confluence of the Walnut and the Arkansas rivers, it has been known for decades as a place of historical findings. Since 1959, both archaeologists and locals have discovered various artifacts belonging to the Wichita people.

Literally tons of objects belonging to an ancient civilization were collected after a road construction in 1994. Many of the objects are kept in private property, as it became common to find shards of pottery or pieces of arrowheads. However, never before was the connection made between these traces of settlement with the almost mythical city of Etzanoa ― discovered by Oñate’s expedition in 1601.

Trade beads found at a Wichita village site, c. 1740, collection of the Oklahoma History Center.
Protohistoric Wichita points found at Etzanoa.

The research was conducted under the supervision of Donald Blakeslee, a veteran archaeologist who became intrigued with finding the lost city in 2013, after new translations of various accounts of Spanish colonialists serving under Oñate during the Etzanoa expedition were made by scholars from UC Berkeley.

Together with the National Park Service, Blakeslee scanned the area with a magnetometer, enabling him to determine the variations in the earth’s magnetic field and locate remains of houses, cellars, and fireplaces belonging to a once vibrant settlement. Not far from the settlement’s location, in what is today a suburb of Arkansas City, traces of battle were also found, including three Spanish cannonballs, a horseshoe, and a number of other objects.

Protohistoric Wichita stone knives were recovered from the site by the Kansas State Historical Society.

Let’s head back to the year 1601 and the fate of Juan de Oñate’s expedition, to further unravel the story which led to this amazing discovery. After his vanguard came with reports that a large settlement lay ahead of them, the conquistador must have rubbed his hands in delight ― it was the chance to amass gold, and to convert the natives into Christianity, gaining favor from the Spanish Crown in return.

According to his scouts’ reports, the city seemed as though it stretched for miles. Large beehive-shaped houses with thatched roofs and fields of corn, squash, and beans overtook the horizon. Their estimate was that there must have been more than 20,000 people living there.

A sketch of a Wichita Indian village in the 19th century. The beehive-shaped grass-thatched houses surrounded by cornfields are characteristic and appear similar to those described by Coronado in 1541.
Esadowa (or Isadowa) was chief of the Wichita village adjacent to the Comanche camp attacked by Van Dorn in 1858. In 1861, Esadowa led his people north to Kansas, then in 1865 brought them back to the Indian Territory.

After they were approached by a friendly delegation bringing offerings, the Spanish took the welcoming committee as hostages, as they needed leverage while possibly facing an entire city in battle. As a response, Wichita warriors, who were calling for a fight with the invaders, put on their battle paint. Spanish soldiers named them Rayados ― due to tattoos and paint they wore on their faces and bodies.

Even though at one moment it looked as though they were going to face an army eager to fight, only a handful of people were found in the city as the conquistadors marched into it. The inhabitants of Etzanoa, perhaps familiar with the stories of vicious invaders and their firepower, decided it was safer to just evacuate the entire city for a while than to battle the treacherous Spaniards.

So when the conquistadors entered the city, it was already empty. They wandered the city for several days in their search for gold, counting more than 2,000 houses, all of which were big enough for 10 people.

Adam Ziegler holds an iron ball that he found with a metal detector. The ball, which was part of a cartridge load for a cannon, was the first piece of evidence that suggested the archaeologist had located the battlefield where the Spanish fought the Native Americans.

Once they decided to leave, however, they were met with a horde of 1,500 warriors belonging to the Escanxaques tribe, which rivaled the Wichita. Apparently, they were on a warpath, but instead of fighting their historical enemies, they ended up battling a small detachment of Spaniards who attempted to break through using cannons and muskets. By sheer luck alone, the conquistadors managed to withdraw from the battlefield, suffering heavy casualties.

Afterward, the accounts of their mishaps have often been discarded as exaggerated ramblings of adventurers who sought glory or support from the Spanish Crown. Modern historians dismissed the notion of a settlement of such scale, in part because of yet another expedition, this time under French leadership, that ventured into the same area around 100 years later, only to find what looked to them like untouched nature.

It is most likely that the settlement was abandoned and left to waste due to some sort of disease epidemic, which was the most common reason for the extinction of many other Native American cultures. Thanks to Blakeslee and his team, a real breakthrough is happening, as Etzanoa is estimated to be the second-largest ancient settlement in the United States, the first one being Cahokia in Illinois.

Researchers conducting a surface survey mark the locations of stone flakes, points, and tools with brightly colored flags.

The discovery is also reshaping the way that the history of Great Plains tribes is perceived. It was mostly believed that the tribes inhabiting North America lived in rural settlements or as nomads, as opposed to the vast cities of the Mayans and Incas in the south. However, the unearthing of Etzanoa goes to show that large urban areas existed and thrived as trade centers of civilizations long gone.

According to Jay Warren, an Arkansas City council member, plans are already put in motion to turn the site into a tourist attraction.

“We’re not talking about putting together a one-day wonder. We’re looking at creating something that could be great for the region, and for 50 years and more down the road. We’re talking with (Unified School District) 470 about how it could enhance education. And we think the site could also be a hands-on field training facility for archaeologists from all over the world.”

A gigantic natural quartz crystal cluster was mined from the Colemans quartz mine near Jessieville

A gigantic natural quartz crystal cluster was mined from the Colemans quartz mine near Jessieville

On a Reddit site on Sunday, almost two years after it was found in the Arkansas mine, a picture of 3.5 million dollars chunk of quartz was taken.

Ron Coleman left, and his son Josh Coleman, right, found an 8-foot, 2,000-pound crystal while digging at a mine in Jessieville

This mine was and is the most productive quartz mine in Arkansas. It has been producing quartz crystals in large quantities since 1943. When it is operating it has produced about 60,000 pounds of quartz crystals during a good month.

The image shows a man posing with an 8-foot block of crystals found in the Ron Coleman Mine in Jessieville, about 30 minutes north of Hot Springs.

The man pictured was not a visitor to the mine, which is open year-around for public digging, but an employee who worked on a team to extract the mineral over a four-day excavation said Joel Ledbetter, an online marketer for Ron Coleman Mining.

A $3.5 million chunk of quartz found in Arkansas was featured on the Reddit home page Sunday.

A $3.5 million chunk of quartz found in Arkansas was featured on the Reddit home page Sunday.

“We had a good guess it was there because there’s a 170-mile quartz vein that runs through Arkansas, so we started digging,” Ledbetter said.

Crews blasted the area until they found the vein and then used hand tools to dig out the 2,000-pound chunk that machines lifted out of the mine.

The crystal cluster is one of the most impressive pieces to come out of the quarry since people started digging before World War II — in part to retrieve crystals used in early radios, Ledbetter said.

The 8-foot, 2,000-pound crystal cluster found at the Ron Coleman mine is being kept at the quarry until a buyer is found.

The 8-foot, 2,000-pound crystal cluster found at the Ron Coleman mine is being kept at the quarry until a buyer is found.

The latest find is second in size to only a 9-foot, a 3,000-pound circular formation that was found in the mine just a year or two before.

While the larger piece is on display at various trade shows in Arizona, the other remains in Jessieville until it can be sold.

Ledbetter said several people have inquired about the $3.5 million crystal cluster, but the company has not yet found the right buyer.

That may change as the photo gains popularity as it spreads among various social media platforms.

“Someone really big into crystals probably shared it, and other people who hadn’t seen it saw it and got excited about it,” Ledbetter said. “Anytime people talk about mine, it’s good publicity. People get into crystals but don’t necessarily get to see all that comes out of here.”

The life and death of one of America’s most mysterious trees

The life and death of one of America’s most mysterious trees

In the Centre of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, a towering ponderous tree, known as the “Plaza Tree,” was once built to be a symbol of life and a center of the world for an ancient pueblo town. But new research suggests it may have been just a giant log no one bothered to move for 800 years, and maybe didn’t hold significant meaning. 

The “Plaza Tree of Pueblo Bonito” was thought to be a living “world tree” for ancestral Puebloans. But researchers have found that it grew 50 miles away and was dead when it was hauled there.

“I believe the tree was dead when it had been taken into the canyon,” said Chris Guiterman, a research assistant scientist studying ancient trees at the Tucson University of Arizona.

For over a hundred years, people assumed the tree had meaning; it was regarded as a “tree of life”, according to one researcher, or a “world tree.” The solitary tree was once thought to represent the living “center of the world” for the people of Pueblo Bonito, the largest of Chaco Canyon’s “great houses,” which was occupied between A.D. 850 and 1150.

Some speculations placed the tree at the center of a religious cult, and an illustration of a growing “Plaza Tree of Pueblo Bonito” appears in a brochure from the National Park Service.

Guiterman and his colleagues discovered that the Plaza Tree probably didn’t grow at Chaco Canyon, but more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) away. They also found no evidence that the tree had a religious role — it might have been a pole, or a beam for a house, or firewood.

“I actually have no idea whether it did, does, or ever had religious significance,” Guiterman told Live Science in an email. “I don’t know what it was used for, or why it was located in the plaza where it was found.”

Pueblo Bonito is the largest of the adobe “great houses” in Chaco Canyon. It was occupied between 850 and 1158 AD and is considered the center of the Chaco world.

“Tree of life”

The researchers studied three aspects of the Plaza Tree: documents about the discovery of its 20 foot (6 meters) long trunk in Pueblo Bonito in 1924; the levels of isotopes of the chemical element strontium within samples of its wood, which can identify where it came from; and the width of its tree rings, which can show seasonal growth.

Ideally, the tree rings would have been compared to rings from trees of the same age, wrote the researchers in the study, published online March 13 in the journal American Antiquity — but that wasn’t possible, so they used the rings in modern trees to determine distinctive growth patterns based on the climate of particular areas.

The researchers found that the tree ring width and the strontium isotopes of the Plaza Tree didn’t match those of ponderosa pine trees that grew around Chaco Canyon — instead, they closely matched trees that grew in the Chuska Mountains, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west.

The Chuska Mountains region “also happens to be the primary source for architectural wood used to construct Pueblo Bonito and other Chaco great houses,” Guiterman said.

The researchers determined that archaeologist Neil Judd of the Smithsonian Institution, who excavated Pueblo Bonito in the 1920s, failed to find any sign of deep roots from the tree in the plaza where it was found, and initially dismissed the idea that it had been growing there.

But Judd’s dismissal seems to have been overlooked in his following interpretation in the 1950s when he described the Plaza Tree as the last living remnant of an ancient forest that once existed at Chaco Canyon.

The researchers studied the width of the ancient tree rings and their levels of isotopes of strontium in the wood of the Plaza Tree to determine how old it was and where it came from.

Ancient pueblos

Recent research has shown that logs were often hauled for dozens of miles to build the pueblos at Chaco Canyon, Guiterman said: “hundreds of thousands of timbers were used in the construction of [the] great house structures.”

The Plaza Tree is one of only two logs found in an ancestral Puebloan structure that were not parts of buildings. The other is a 32 foot (10 m) long log of white fir at the Kiet Siel cliff dwelling in Arizona, discovered in the 1890s. That unexpected find may have prompted Judd’s more elaborate interpretation of the Plaza Tree, Guiterman said.

“It was a puzzling discovery — one of a kind, really,” he said. “It served as evidence for an early idea that Chaco Canyon was heavily forested before the great houses were constructed, and that the hundreds of thousands of beams came from that local forest.”

The researchers looked again at several theories surrounding the Plaza Tree, including that it served as a gnomon — the upright that casts a shadow — of an ancient sundial. “Although we cannot confirm that [the Plaza Tree] was actually long enough to be a gnomon, it is certainly possible,” they wrote.

The tree may also have served as an upright pole in ceremonies and festivals, such as the pole-climbing that features in some Native American festivals and which may have originated in ancient Mesoamerica, the researchers wrote. The branches and logs of pine trees are used in some Puebloan ceremonies today. 

But the Plaza Tree also could have had a much more mundane use. “It might have been a log staged for construction of a new room, or to replace a damaged beam in an existing room,” they wrote. “It could have been a bench, or intended for fuelwood [firewood].”

The Mystery behind the 18 Giant Skeletons found in the USA

The Mystery behind the 18 Giant Skeletons found in the USA

18 Strange Skeletons Found in Wisconsin Nine-foot Skeletons with Huge Heads and Strange Facial Features Shocked Scientists When They Were Uncovered 107 Year Ago Scientists are remaining stubbornly silent about a lost race of giants found in burial mounds near Lake Delavan, Wisconsin, in May 1912.

The dig site at Lake Delavan was overseen by Beloit College and it included more than 200 effigy mounds that proved to be classic examples of 8th century Woodland Culture. But the enormous size of the skeletons and elongated skulls found in May 1912 did not fit very neatly into anyone’s concept of a textbook standard.

They were enormous. These were not average human beings.

Strange Skulls

First reported in the 4 May 1912 issue of the New York Times, the 18 skeletons found by the Peterson brothers on Lake Lawn Farm in southwest Wisconsin exhibited several strange and freakish features.

Their heights ranged between seven and nine feet and their skulls “presumably those of men, are much larger than the heads of any race which inhabit America to-day.”

Above the eye sockets, “the head slopes straight back and the nasal bones protrude far above the cheekbones. The jawbones are long and pointed, bearing a minute resemblance to the head of the monkey. The teeth in the front of the jaw are regular molars.”

Their heights ranged between 7.6ft and 10 feet and their skulls “presumably those of men, are much larger than the heads of any race which inhabit America to-day.” They tend to have a double row of teeth, 6 fingers, 6 toes and like humans came in different races. The teeth in the front of the jaw are regular molars. Heads usually found are elongated believed due to longer than normal life span.

The mystery of The Wisconsin Giants

Was this some sort of prank, a hoax played by local farm boys or a demented taxidermist for fun and the attention of the press? The answer is no.

The Lake Delavan find of May 1912 was only one of the dozens and dozens of similar finds that were reported in local newspapers from 1851 forward to the present day. It was not even the first set of giant skeletons found in Wisconsin.

On 10 August 1891, the New York Times reported that scientists from the Smithsonian Institution had discovered several large “pyramidal monuments” on Lake Mills, near Madison, Wisconsin. “Madison was in ancient days the center of a teeming population numbering not less than 200,000,” the Times said. The excavators found an elaborate system of defensive works which they named Fort Aztalan.

“The celebrated mounds of Ohio and Indiana can bear no comparison, either in size, design or the skill displayed in their construction with these gigantic and mysterious monuments of the earth — erected we know not by whom, and for what purpose we can only conjecture,” said the Times.

On 20 December 1897, the Times followed up with a report on three large burial mounds that had been discovered in Maple Creek, Wisconsin. One had recently been opened.

“In it was found the skeleton of a man of gigantic size. The bones measured from head to foot over nine feet and were in a fair state of preservation. The skull was as large as a half bushel measure. Some finely tempered rods of copper and other relics were lying near the bones.”

Giant skulls and skeletons of a race of “Goliaths” have been found on a very regular basis throughout the Midwestern states for more than 100 years. Giants have been found in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, and New York, and their burial sites are similar to the well-known mounds of the Mound Builder people.

The spectrum of Mound builder history spans a period of more than 5,000 years (from 3400 BCE to the 16th CE), a period greater than the history of Ancient Egypt and all of its dynasties.

There is a “prevailing scholarly consensus” that we have an adequate historical understanding of the peoples who lived in North America during this period. However, the long record of anomalous finds like those at Lake Delavan suggests otherwise.

The Great Smithsonian Cover-Up

Has there been a giant cover-up? Why aren’t there public displays of gigantic Native American skeletons at natural history museums?

The skeletons of some Mound Builders are certainly on display. There is a wonderful exhibit, for example, at the Aztalan State Park where one may see the skeleton of a “Princess of Aztalan” in the museum.

But the skeletons placed on display are normal-sized, and according to some sources, the skeletons of giants have been covered up. Specifically, the Smithsonian Institution has been accused of making a deliberate effort to hide the “telling of the bones” and to keep the giant skeletons locked away.

In the words of Vine Deloria, a Native American author, and professor of law:

“Modern day archaeology and anthropology have nearly sealed the door on our imaginations, broadly interpreting the North American past as devoid of anything unusual in the way of great cultures characterized by a people of unusual demeanor. The great interloper of ancient burial grounds, the nineteenth century Smithsonian Institution, created a one-way portal, through which uncounted bones have been spirited. This door and the contents of its vault are virtually sealed off to anyone, but government officials. Among these bones may lay answers not even sought by these officials concerning the deep past.”