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The 1540–1542 Coronado Expedition, in a circa 1900 painting by Frederic Remington, heads north after travelling inland from the Gulf of Mexico.		Source: Frederic Remington / Public domain

16th Century Spanish Coronado Expedition Site Found in Arizona

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An Arizona-based archaeologist claims to have found artifacts linked to the famous 16th-century Spanish Coronado Expedition led by Spanish conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado. The Coronado Expedition traveled through present-day Mexico and the American southwest, but the exact route has never been proven. The discovery of the relics in Arizona’s Santa Cruz County could “rewrite the history of the Coronado expedition,” archaeologist Deni Seymour said in a lecture on the find.

Although Seymour, an independent researcher, hasn’t disclosed the exact location of the site, going by her description, it is at least 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Coronado National Memorial, which overlooks the US-Mexico border, reported CBS.

A few of the latest Coronado Expedition artifact finds in Arizona, recently discovered by independent researcher Deni Seymour. (YouTube screenshot)

A few of the latest Coronado Expedition artifact finds in Arizona, recently discovered by independent researcher Deni Seymour. ( YouTube screenshot )

Deni Seymour’s Team Discovers Coronado Expedition Artifacts

According to azcentral, her finds number in the hundreds and include pieces of iron and copper crossbow bolts, distinctive caret-headed nails , a medieval horseshoe and spur, a sword point and bits of chain mail armor .

However, the “trophy artifact” is a bronze wall gun (an early form of cannon) more than 3 feet (91 centimeters) long and weighing roughly 40 pounds (18 kilograms). This was found resting on the floor of a structure that, according to Seymour, could be part of the oldest European settlement in the United States. “This is a history-changing site. It’s unquestionably Coronado,” Seymour, who calls herself the Sherlock Holmes of history, said to azcentral.

The Bronze wall gun, viewed as the ‘trophy artifact’. (Coronado We Did It)

The Bronze wall gun, viewed as the ‘trophy artifact’. ( Coronado We Did It )

The Coronado Expedition

In 1540 Spanish conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado led an armed expedition of more than 2,500 European and Mexican-Indian allies through the present-day Mexico and the American southwest in search of treasure. Lasting over two years, the journey took them as far north and east as Kansas. Along the way, they encountered and often clashed with the local Native American tribes.

Although it has long been debated among professional and amateur historians, the question of the exact route Coronado and his band took to reach the Zuni pueblos region hasn’t been satisfactorily settled. However, the consensus among scholars has been that the expedition most likely followed the Rio Sonora through northern Mexico and the San Pedro River into what is now Arizona.

La conquista del Colorado, by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau, depicts the 1540–1542 Coronado Expedition. (Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau Nieto / CC BY-SA 4.0)

La conquista del Colorado, by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau, depicts the 1540–1542 Coronado Expedition. (Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau Nieto / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Coronado Expedition: Historical Claims and Counter-claims

Seymour is claiming that her discovery proves beyond any doubt that Coronado and his army actually entered Arizona along the Santa Cruz River before eventually heading east. This goes contrary to the generally held belief among historians. Prior to her discovery, Seymour says she too subscribed to the consensus view. But after finding the artifacts in an “entirely different river valley,” she says she revised her opinion, as reported by the Daily Mail .

Since July 2020, when she found the first caret-headed nails at the site, “which in this area means without question you have Coronado,” she and her band of 18 volunteers armed with metal detectors have been making fresh discoveries with astonishing regularity. “The site just keeps giving and giving,” CBS reports her as saying. The volunteers include members of the local Tohono Oʼodham tribe, whose descendants, the Sobaipuri, probably inhabited the area and came in conflict with Coronado during the expedition.

Seymour’s claims that her discovery disproves the prevailing consensus on Coronado’s route haven’t cut much ice with most researchers, two of whom are Bill Hartmann and Richard Flint who have been researching and writing on the subject for years.   

“It sure sounds like she’s found an exciting site. The big question in my mind is whether it disagrees with the earlier interpretation of where the Coronado Expedition went. I don't think it undermines earlier thoughts that they came up the San Pedro,” Hartmann said after attending her lecture, according to CBS.

In a similar vein, Flint said “I think Deni's finds are certainly fascinating and probably indicate the presence of the Coronado expedition. I don't think that that means the usual reconstruction of the route going north has to be abandoned. The evidence is very strong that they came up through the Rio Sonora .”

One of the longest-standing archeological mysteries in the United States has been the Coronado Expedition land route taken by famed explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado. Through the tireless work of Arizona-based Dr. Deni Seymour we now know where Coronado's expedition first crossed into what would later become the continental United States. (Coronado We Did It)

One of the longest-standing archeological mysteries in the United States has been the Coronado Expedition land route taken by famed explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado. Through the tireless work of Arizona-based Dr. Deni Seymour we now know where Coronado's expedition first crossed into what would later become the continental United States. ( Coronado We Did It )

Seymour, meanwhile, who has found relics scattered across a more than half a mile (0.8 kilometers), believes that it is at least the remains of a large encampment that she has found, likely something even bigger. “What we have is a named place, a place named in the Coronado papers.”

Seymour identifies the site with Suya, also known as San Geronimo III because it was the third and northernmost location of a Spanish outpost established to support the expedition.

Along with the central structure where the wall gun was found, she said she has found what appears to be six surrounding lookout stations, three of which show “clear evidence of being attacked…. We have clear evidence of battle. There's no question.”

On the question of whether the site can be classified as the “first European settlement in the US” or not, both Hartmann and Flint are skeptical. To Hartmann, calling the site a “settlement” is a bit far-fetched, while Flint disputes the claim of it being the “first” because by the time San Geronimo III was established, Coronado had already been deep into New Mexico , clashed with the Native Americans Indians.

However, Seymour dismisses the skepticism. “There are a lot of naysayers. I'm an archaeologist. I just go where the evidence is.” She is so sure of her ground that she feels the site could one day end up being declared a national monument or even a World Heritage Site. Claims and counter-claims notwithstanding, Seymour has undisputedly made a tremendous discovery.

Top image: The 1540–1542 Coronado Expedition, in a circa 1900 painting by Frederic Remington, heads north after travelling inland from the Gulf of Mexico.  Source: Frederic Remington / Public domain

By Sahir Pandey

References

Brean, H. 2022. Tucson archaeologist says she found artifacts linked to 16th century Coronado Expedition . Available at: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2022/02/13/tucson-archaeologist-says-she-found-coronado-expedition-artifacts/6775408001/

CBS. 2022. Arizona archaeologist says she's found artifacts linked to famed 1540 expedition: “A history-changing site” . Available at: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronado-expedition-1540-artifatcs-found-arizona-archaeologist/

Deni Seymour. 2022. Lecture. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ftubacpresidiopark%2Fposts%2F3274737226108040

Morrison, R. 2022. Artifacts linked to famed 16th century Coronado expedition into what is now Arizona, including a 3ft long bronze wall gun, are part of a 'history-changing site', claims the archeologist behind the discovery . Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-10511381/Artifacts-linked-famed-16th-century-Coronado-expedition-history-changing-site.html

Comments

It is the business of academics to disprove anything that doesn’t conform to their studies and/or teachings. Read: Thomas Kuhn, ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions ‘, the theory which applies to all institutions, organisations, and scientific activitities. “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win." –  the paradigm changes.

The extensive finding of artifacts identified with Spain does indicate some sort of settlement, and not a site that was used for a couple of days or a couple of weeks. Additionally, the challenges criticising the route taken have such comments as ‘most likely’ . We wait for the paper fully describing and documentiing the finds – and the location!

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