A Wichita State University professor thinks that he’s found Etzanoa, a lost Native American city in the middle of Kansas. Donald Blakeslee believes that he’s stumbled upon the city, which reportedly might have housed 20,000 people. He’s been researching the city since 2015, but when a high school kid found a half-inch iron cannon ball in the area and a water shrine, Blakeslee was convinced his theory about the size of the city was correct.
So here’s the scoop: way back in 1601, Spanish conquistador Juan de Onate wrote of this huge city they came across made of “beehived” homes. Blakesless told the Wichita Eagle:
“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.”
That’s a pretty big city. The local Wichita tribe fled when they saw the Spanish coming, so the Spaniards themselves turned around and came under attack from the Escanxaques, who were on their way to attack the Etzanoans.
Apart from the cannonballs, Blakeslee was led to the site after re-translating some old Spanish documents. Other researchers were working off of translations that had some major mistakes, so they’ve been misled about the city, and whether or not it existed and also misidentified artifacts found in the area. It’s been a mystery for 400 years. But Blakeslee’s cracked the code.
“It has been a lot of fun to rewrite the record so thoroughly. By joining the historical written record to the archaeology, we ended up rewriting both fields. Rather than a cluster of 30 little villages, there was a single town of 20,000 people.”
Later, the Wichita tribe was pretty much decimated by disease by the time the French arrived almost a century after the Spanish. Later, the U.S. Army and American settlers further pushed the tribe off of their land and essentially history.
Already, there’s talk in modern day Wichita about eventually turning the lost city into a tourist destination, but Blakeslee is still studying. He brings a crew of Wichita State University students to the city each summer, including this upcoming one, to excavate the city and has invited Wichita elders to help with research.
A huge lost Native American city might just be what it takes to visit Kansas. Props to the teenager who found the cannonball.