Don Juan de Oñate sought a city of gold when he explored what are now the Plains states. It wasn't to be, but according to an interview given by five of his men in 1602, they did find something staggering: a "great settlement" some five miles long that housed at least 20,000 people, an ancestral Wichita Indian town called Etzanoa. But French explorers in the region 100 years later found no sign of those people, sowing confusion among latter-day historians. Donald Blakeslee, an archaeologist with Wichita State University, says he's cleared it all up: Etzanoa did exist, he claims, once thriving where the Walnut and Arkansas Rivers meet in Arkansas City, Kansas. Per a university press release, things got off the ground with a new and more correct transcription of centuries-old Spanish documents by the University of California, Berkeley's Cibola Project.
Prior translation errors caused "many archaeological discoveries in the area [to be] misinterpreted," per the release. In 2015, Blakeslee noted that a geographic description of a 1601 ambush described in a Spanish account had to have occurred where the rivers joined. And, indeed, a search there turned up small iron cannon balls, reported the Kansas City Star at the time. If Blakeslee is right, the "long-lost city" would be second only to Cahokia on the list of biggest prehistoric Native American sites, reports the Wichita Eagle. That would be a boon for Arkansas City and its 12,000 residents; some 400,000 flock to the remains of Cahokia, in Illinois, each year. The Kansas House of Representatives thinks Blakeslee is onto something; earlier this month it approved a resolution that formally recognizes Etzanoa based on "the evidence," reports the Courier Traveler. (This man followed a hunch, says he uncovered a lost city.)