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Help Scholars find new Coronado Sites

In Brief:

This page gives instructions on how to identify possible Coronado-era artifacts, and why it is important. Reporting procedures are discussed.

Why is it Important to Find and Document Coronado Sites

  1. Coronado's route is still not exactly known and there is a thrill of discovery if we can pin down exactly where he went, possibly finding campsites and artifacts along the way.
  2. Coronado's army traveled all the way from Sonora, Mexico, to Kansas, and several of the soldiers wrote descriptions of what they saw. Many of these descriptions paint pictures of life among the native peoples of America in what were literally the last days of prehistory. The Spanish did not come back to many of these areas for several generations, by which time European diseases had decimated populations and changed lifestyles. Without the Coronado record we can know native life only through the fuzzy lens of archaeological interpretation. What makes that even harder is that, in the 1200s and 1300s, some sort of social collapse (caused by climate change) upset many populations throughout western America. In Arizona, for example, most communities were no longer making painted pottery in the 1400s and 1500s, which means interpretation of their sites is very difficult. Thus, if we knew where Coronado traveled, we could use the descriptions of village life to understand native America of that period.
  3. Even one new site is important. Imagine all the camps of Coronado's army - known and unknown - as a network of points attached by rubber bands. Different scholars have proposed different nets, or routes. If scholar A is right, then the chronicles for a certain date describe 1540s native life in, say, northeast New Mexico; but if scholar B is right, the same chronicles describe life in the Texas panhandle. As soon as one of those floating points is firmly located, it not only fixes that spot on the route, but it drags all the other proposed points with it, by their rubber bands. So each new discovery improves the interpretation of the whole narrative.
"Wanted" poster that Madsen has circulated, focusing especially on horseshoes of the Coronado period.
This poster is being circulated by researchers of Arizona State Museum to encourage ranchers and collectors to find and report possible Coronado artifacts.

 

What You Can Do

John Madsen, of the Arizona State Museum in Tucson, has undertaken an effort to contact ranchers, outdoorspeople, and collectors to make them more aware of what Coronado materials might look like. Here we show the "Wanted" poster that Madsen has circulated, focusing especially on horseshoes of the Coronado period. On this website we have also included photos of the copper crossbow arrow points and nails used by the expedition. These materials, or more importantly clusters of these materials, are very important markers of possible sites on the Coronado army trail. Archaeologists do not ask finders or owners to give up possession of their pieces, and reports are treated with discretion if that is the owner's desire. However, it is important to record evidence of such materials and where they were found, in permanent archives, so that scholars can unravel the story of the expedition.

In all archaeological and historical research, the rights of private landowners and the restrictions on public land must be respected. Removal of artifacts from public or private land without the landowner permission is prohibited by law. As seen in the sign above, many ranchers and other property owners distrust public officials, a fact that may sadly hamper future historical research. The best policy, if you find artifacts or sites of possible importance, is to report them to State Museum officials or researchers such as listed here.

 

In this part of the continent, most artifacts that some people might assume to be Coronado's turn out to be later Spanish and Mexican material. Madsen's survey, for example, has turned up concentrations of Spanish material from the 1700s, along a route that was probably used to travel from the provincial Sonoran capital of Arispe to Santa Fe. In any case, if you have questions about material you might have found, notify

 

John Madsen
Arizona State Museum
Tucson, AZ 85721

Twisted iron bits found in a De Soto campsite in Tallahassee, Florida, are fragments of chain mail armor.
Center: Nails found at a campsite of De Soto's expedition in Florida match those found in the Coronado Campsite in Texas.
Right: Probably the most diagnostic artifact to identify a Coronado site is the copper crossbow arrow point, because the Coronado expedition was the only large Spanish force in the Southwest armed with crossbows.
Left: Twisted iron bits found in a De Soto campsite in Tallahassee, Florida, are fragments of chain mail armor. De Soto explored west of the Mississippi the same year Coronado explored the Southwest, and used very similar equipment. Compare with the chain mail gauntlet found at the Coronado Campsite in Texas.

Center: Nails found at a campsite of De Soto's expedition in Florida match those found in the Coronado Campsite in Texas.

Right: Probably the most diagnostic artifact to identify a Coronado site is the copper crossbow arrow point, because the Coronado expedition was the only large Spanish force in the Southwest armed with crossbows.


 

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