Wichita State University Anthropologist Dr. Donald Blakeslee, who helped uncover the long-lost city of Etzanoa, gave a presentation on his findings Wednesday, June 27, in Cowley College’s Earle N. Wright Community Room.
The Etzanoa settlement, estimated at 20,000 people, considered by archaeologists as the second-largest — if not the largest — urban center built by Native Americans in North America, was discovered near present-day Arkansas City by Spanish explorers in 1602.
The Etzanoans were ancestors of today’s Wichita Nation. They lived along the banks of the lower Walnut River, near its confluence with the Arkansas — from about 1450 to 1715.
For decades archaeologists debated the location, size and significance of Etzanoa. In recent years, Dr. Blakeslee became convinced that the town was in Arkansas City.
One of the main factors that led Blakeslee to that conviction was a new, more precise translation of old Spanish documents, accompanied by maps from the period.
Blakeslee and seven students who have been working under his direction since early June have unearthed large pieces of pottery and bone tools. They were dug up at an Etzanoa site on the east side of the lower Walnut River.
He presented a summary of their findings at his presentation in the Wright Room. More than 80 people were on hand to hear of Dr. Blakeslee’s findings.
“The summer’s excavation went extremely well, as we recovered two more Spanish artifacts along with native artifacts good enough to display in a visitors’ center,” Dr. Blakeslee said. “The WSU students will be working on the collections we made during the school year.”
Dr. Blakeslee invited individuals who have found red stone, gray stone or ceramic pipes to bring them to the Wright Room to view prior to his presentation. Dr. Blakeslee wanted to see how they compared to those found in other places in Kansas and Oklahoma.
“I got to examine and photograph one collection from south of Silverdale and have made contact with Cameron Iverson who grew up in Ark City and who will be bringing me a pipe to photograph,” Dr. Blakeslee said. “I also had the opportunity to make some connections for Hollis Stabler, a Native American who has some ideas about how Ark City can benefit economically from Etzanoa.”