Kechiba:wa: A New Vázquez de Coronado Site in West-Central New Mexico(1)
by Clay Mathers, Charles Haecker, and Dan Simplicio
For more than 170 years, the 1539-1542 entrada of Capitan General Francisco Vázquez de Coronado into the Greater Southwest has been a subject of interest for historians, archeologists, and others.(2) Until recently, our knowledge of the Vázquez de Coronado expedition was largely dependent on contemporary narratives and documentary research, rather than extant archeological assemblages. In recent years, however, the discovery of a number of sites in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas has begun to alter how we understand the activities, route and significance of this salient historical event.(3)
The Ancestral Pueblo site of Kechiba:wa, or "gypsum place", is located on ZuniTribal lands in west-central New Mexico and was occupied from approximately 1425 to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.(4) The remains of this irregularly-shaped pueblo measure 152 m by 128 m. With some 471 ground floor rooms and 824 overall, its population has been estimated at over 1000 individuals.(5) Lying in relatively close proximity to the six other major Zuni pueblos, Kechiba:wa has been documented by generations of archeologists, historians, and ethnographers since the late 19th century, including a brief excavation by L.C.G. Clarke of the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology between 1919 and 1923.(6) (Figures 1, 2) In addition, Kechiba:wa appears to have been mentioned by a series of 16th-century Spanish chroniclers including Melchoir Díaz and Pedro de Casteñeda de Nájera (Vázquez de Coronado expedition, 1539-1542); Hernán Gallegos (Sánchez Chamuscado-Rodríquez expedition, 1581-1582); Diego Pérez de Luxán (Antonio de Espejo expedition, 1582-1583); and Juan Velarde (Juan de Oñate expedition, 1598).(7) As the first major entrada into the American Southwest, the Vázquez de Coronado expedition—numbering some 2800 people and more than 8000 animals—has assumed special significance for our understanding of initial Native-European contacts on the frontiers of New Spain.
After more than a century of investigations, it remains difficult to identify, definitively and archeologically, sites that were visited by the Vázquez de Coronado expedition both at Zuni and in other regions along the route of this entrada. Pedro de Casteñada de Nájera's extensive narrative concerning the activities of the Vázquez de Coronado expedition indicate that a major battle took place at the ancestral Zuni pueblo of Hawikku in July 1540. Casteñada de Nájera's narrative also indicates that this large party of Europeans, native allies, Africans and others remained in the area for a period of four months before departing eastward, in November 1540, for the Southern Tiwa pueblos in the present day Albuquerque-Bernalillo area of New Mexico. Recent research at Zuni by Damp has not only found evidence of the Battle of Hawikku, but has also revealed a Vázquez de Coronado presence at the site of Kyaki:ma, a smaller pueblo of some 250 ground floor rooms located roughly 20 kilometers northeast of Hawikku. The site of Kechiba:wa, reported on here, is situated closer to Hawikku—about three kilometers to the east-southeast—and represents another site at Zuni with clears signs of Vázquez de Coronado materials.
Following a series of serendipitous discussions between our colleagues Louanna Haecker at the Archeological Records Management Section in Santa Fe, NM and Dr. Patricia Nietfeld at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Suitland, MD, we became aware of a number of metal objects from the Kechiba:wa collections at the NMAI. These items include, amongst others: a copper crossbow bolthead (Figure 3), two copper(?) Clarksdale bells and approximately two dozen links of chain mail. Other metal objects recovered from Kechiba:wa during Clarke's 1919-1923 investigations include a large iron awl with a short bone handle; flat iron object (possibly an axe); a large iron fragment with a pointed end (possibly a spike/lance head); a large, thick iron chisel or punch; a long copper needle; a series of iron spheres which may be natural concretions; and a fragment of a horseshoe or (more likely perhaps) a muleshoe. The copper crossbow bolthead, early cupreous bell forms (i.e., Clarksdale-types), and chain mail are all suggestive of a 16th-century presence at Kechiba:wa. After the Vázquez de Coronado expedition returned to Mexico in 1542, the next major European entradas into the Zuni area and the American Southwest generally were in the early 1580s with the expeditions of Francisco Sánchez-Chamuscado and Fray Augustín Rodríguez (1580-1581) and Antonio de Espejo (1582-1583), and again in the late 1590s with Juan de Oñate and Marcos Farfán de los Godos (1598-1599). Clarksdale bells and chain mail could potentially belong to any of these expeditions.(8) Crossbows, however, are known to have been used during the Vázquez de Coronado entrada, but were apparently not employed by later expeditions in the Southwest.(9) In addition, the size of the Vázquez de Coronado expedition at Zuni (~2800 people) and the duration of their camp there (four months), was significantly larger and of longer duration than other, later 16th-century expeditions to visit that region—i.e., Sánchez-Chamuscado/Rodríguez (~31 people/~2 days); Espejo (~21 people/~29 days), Oñate-Farfán de los Godos (~30 people/~9 days).(10) These data suggest that much of the 16th-century material at Kechiba:wa is likely to result from the Vázquez de Coronado expedition rather than later Spanish entradas.(11)
Figure 3. Copper Crossbow Bolthead from Kechiba:wa, Zuni, New Mexico. (Courtesy National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution [NMAI Catalog Number: 123896.000]. Photo by Clay Mathers.)
Furthermore, independent research by William Billeck(12) at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C. points to additional Vázquez de Coronado materials at both Hawikku and Kechiba:wa. His investigations indicate the presence of early bead forms at both sites including Nueva Cádiz varieties (dating up to c. 1500-1550 and 1500-1575, for large and small varieties, respectively) and faceted-chevron beads (dating to c. 1500-1587/1588). Billeck reports two Nueva Cádiz beads and one faceted-chevron form at Kechiba:wa. While the latter may be associated with later 16th-century entradas, the presence of Nueva Cádiz beads clearly supports our and Billeck's conclusion that the Vázquez de Coronado party had contacts with the inhabitants of Kechiba:wa. The nature of these contacts and the possible presence of other Vázquez de Coronado materials at this site is the subject of ongoing collaborative work and heritage preservation efforts by the Pueblo of Zuni, the Coronado Institute and the National Park Service.
Future work in and around Zuni will no doubt shed additional light on the nature, activities and impact of the Vázquez de Coronado expedition. In the meantime, we hope the findings reported here help enhance our understanding of several important aspects of this entrada. First, while contemporary 16th-century narratives emphasize the expedition's battle at Hawikku, and their subsequent occupation of that pueblo, new evidence reported here suggests a wider set of interactions between European expeditionaries and the communities at Zuni. The recent discovery of Vázquez de Coronado materials at Kyaki:ma, and now at Kechiba:wa, suggest that Spanish contacts at Zuni may have been more spatially extensive than suggested in the documents. Indeed, the widespread reconnaissance by sub-sets of the Vázquez de Coronado entrada (e.g., to the Hopi Mesas, Grand Canyon, and Rio Grande Valley) may imply that Spanish activities extended to most, if not all, of the Zuni pueblos occupied at contact. In this sense, the expedition's stay at Zuni may reflect strategies employed later in the Tiguex (Southern Tiwa) area, involving both major military confrontations and an extensive network of contacts with Pueblo communities. Second, the newly discovered objects from Kechiba:wa give us a better sense of the constellation of material culture associated with this important historical event. As we improve our knowledge of the range of site types and artifact assemblages relating to the Vázquez de Coronado expedition our ability to identify, evaluate and protect these important resources will likewise be enhanced. Finally, the historical legacy of the Vázquez de Coronado expedition cannot be understood without reference to its lasting impact and consequences, especially for Native communities.
As we endeavor to understand those processes—where contacts took place, what form they took, and what their longer-term implications were—we are acutely aware of the insights to be gained from new objects, documents, and other sources of data. Although the Kechiba:wa assemblage was excavated in the early decades of the 20th century, contextual and material analyses(13) of these objects have the potential to contribute to some of the larger issues concerning the initial Contact Period in the American Southwest. As comparative research progresses at Kechiba:wa, in the Zuni area generally, as well as further afield, for example, we see the potential to address important questions about ethnic identity, military conflict, resistance, exchange, and other relations. In the interim, we hope this modest addition of evidence will help contribute to our understanding of events as Native Americans, Native Mexicans, Africans, and Europeans, interacted with one another at Zuni in the summer and autumn of 1540.
About the Authors
Clay Mathers is the Executive Director, The Coronado Institute, Albuquerque, NM. Charles Haecker is an Archeologist with the National Park Service– Heritage Partnerships Program, Santa Fe, NM. Dan Simplicio is a Museum Consultant, Pueblo of Zuni, Zuni, NM.
1. The authors would like to extend their thanks to following individuals whose support and expertise contributed significantly to this report, including: Governor Norman Cooeyate and Lieutenant Governor Dancy Simplicio of the Pueblo of Zuni, Zuni, NM; James Enote, Executive Director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, Zuni, NM; Dr. Kurt Dongoske, Acting Director of the Zuni Heritage and Historic Preservation Office, Zuni, NM; Tom Kennedy, Director of Zuni Tourism, Zuni, NM; Louanna Haecker, Archivist at the Archeological Records Management Section, Santa Fe, NM; Dr. Patricia Nietfeld, Supervisory Collections Manager at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of the American Indian, Suitland, MD; Dr. Robin Boast, Deputy Director and Curator for World Archaeology at Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK; Lou Stancari, Photo Archivist at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of the American Indian, Suitland, MD; and John Connaway, Archaeologist at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.
2. Henri Ternaux-Compans, Voyages, Relations et Memoires Originaux pour Servir a l'Histoire de la Découverte de l'Amérique, 10 volumes (Paris, France: Arthur Bertrand, Libraire-Éditeur, 1837-1841); W.W.H. Davis, The Spanish Conquest of New Mexico (Doylestown, PA: William Watts Harts Davis, 1869); J.H. Simpson, "Coronado's March in Search of the 'Seven Cities of Cibola' and Discussion of their Probable Location," Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1869 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1872), 309-40; Victor Mindeleff, "A Study of Pueblo Architecture in Tusayan and Cibola," in Eighth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology for the Years 1886-1887 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1891) 3-228; George Parker Winship, "The Coronado Expedition, 1540-1542," in Fourteenth Annual Report of the United States Bureau of Ethnology, Part I (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1896), 329-613; Adolph F. Bandelier, History of the Colonization and Missions of Sonora, Chihuahua, New Mexico and Arizona to the Year 1700 (Rome: Vatican Library, Bandelier Collection, 1887) Manuscripts, Vat. Lat. 14112-14116; George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, trans. and eds., Narratives of the Coronado Expedition, 1540-1542 (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1940); Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint, eds., The Coronado Expedition to Tierra Nueva: The 1540-1542 Route Across the Southwest (Niwot, CO: University of Colorado Press, 1997); Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint, Documents of the Coronado Expedition, 1539-1542. "They Were Not Familiar with His Majesty, nor Did They Wish to Be His Subjects" (Dallas, TX: Southern Methodist University Press, 2005); Richard Flint, No Settlement, No Conquest: A History of the Coronado Entrada (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2008).
3. Nugent Brasher, "The Chichilticale Camp of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado: The Search for the Red House," New Mexico Historical Review 82(4) (2007): 433-468; Nugent Brasher, "The Red House Camp and the Capitan General: The 2009 Report on the Coronado Expedition Campsite of Chichilticale," New Mexico Historical Review 84(1) (2009): 1-64; Jonathan E. Damp, The Battle of Hawikku, Archaeological Investigations of the Zuni-Coronado Encounter at Hawikku, the Ensuing Battle, and the Aftermath during the Summer of 1540. Zuni Cultural Resources Enterprise (ZCRE) Report 884, Research Series 13 (Zuni, NM: ZCRE, 2005); Charles M. Haecker, "Tracing Coronado's Route through Trace Element Analysis," Paper presented in the symposium, Between Entrada and Salida: New Mexico Perspectives on the Coronado Expedition. Charles Haecker and Clay Mathers, organizers. Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico, January 12, 2008; Clay Mathers, Phil Leckman, and Nahide Aydin, "'Non-Ground Breaking' Research at the Edge of Empire: Geophysical and Geospatial Approaches to Sixteenth-Century Interaction in Tiguex Province (New Mexico)," Paper presented for the symposium, Between Entrada and Salida: New Mexico Perspectives on the Coronado Expedition, Charles Haecker and Clay Mathers, organizers. Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico, January 12, 2008; Donald J. Blakeslee and Jay C. Blaine 2003, "The Jimmy Owens Site: New Perspectives on the Coronado Expedition," in Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint, eds., The Coronado Expedition from the Distance of 460 Years (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2003), 203-218.
4. Frederick W. Hodge, The Age of the Zuni Pueblo of Kechipauan, Indian Notes and Monographs Volume III. No. 2 (New York, NY: Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, 1920); Frederick W. Hodge, The History of Hawikuh, New Mexico: One of the So-Called Cities of Cíbola, Publications of the Frederick Webb Hodge Anniversary Publication Fund, Volume I (Los Angeles, CA: The Southwest Museum, 1937), 58-78; Frederick W. Hodge, A Square Kiva at Hawikku, New Mexico, Contributions from the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, Volume XII. No. 4, Hendricks-Hodge Expedition (New York, NY: Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, 1939); Watson Smith, Richard B. Woodbury, and Nathalie F.S. Woodbury, The Excavation of Hawikuh by Frederick Webb Hodge. Report of the Hendricks-Hodge Expedition 1917-1923. Contributions from the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, Volume XX (New York, NY: Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, 1966); T.J. Ferguson and E. Richard Hart, A Zuni Atlas (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma, 1985); Keith W. Kintigh, Settlement, Subsistence, and Society in Late Zuni Prehistory, Anthropological Papers, Number 44 (Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 1985), 68-69; Todd L. Howell and Tammy Stone, eds., Exploring Social, Political and Economic Organization in the Zuni Region, Anthropological Research Papers No. 46 (Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University Press, 1994); T.J. Ferguson, Historic Zuni Architecture and Society: An Archaeological Application of Space Syntax, Anthropological Papers, Number 60 (Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 1996), 44-45.
5. Kintigh, Settlement, Subsistence, and Society in Late Zuni Prehistory, 69, 75.
6. Apart from Kechiba:wa, the remaining Zuni pueblos include Halona:wa, Mats'a:kya; Kyaki:ma, Kwa'kin'a, Hawikku and Chalo:wa; all of these communities appear to have been occupied at the time of initial contact with European entradas, with the possible exception of the latter (Chalo:wa), see Kintigh, Settlement, Subsistence, and Society in Late Zuni Prehistory, 66-68; Hodge, The Age of the Zuni Pueblo of Kechipauan; G.H.S. Bushnell, "Some Pueblo Pottery Types from Kechipaun, New Mexico, USA," Anais do 31 Congreso Internacional de Americanistas, São Paulo 2 (Sao Pãulo, Brazil: Editora Anhembi, 1955), 657-665.
7. Kechiba:wa appears to have been mentioned in a variety of 16th-century Spanish documentary sources either obliquely: e.g., by Melchoir Díaz and Vázquez de Coronado as an unnamed site belonging to one of the Seven Cities, or more directly as Martín de Pedrosa's Acana; Diego Pérez de Luxán's Cana; and Juan Velarde's Canabi. Although Esteban de Dorantes visited Zuni in spring 1539 as part of the advanced scouting party for the expedition of Fray Marcos de Niza, and was later killed at Zuni along with other members of his party, there is no archeological evidence to date linking the presence of Dorantes at Zuni with the site of Kechiba:wa. Apparently fearing he might suffer the same fate as Dorantes, Fray Marcos de Niza seems to have observed one or more Zuni pueblos from a distance and returned to Mexico without having visited them directly; Flint and Flint, Documents of the Coronado Expedition, 1539-1542. "They Were Not Familiar with His Majesty, nor Did They Wish to Be His Subjects," 75-76.
8. Marvin Smith, Archaeology of Aboriginal Culture Change in the Interior Southeast: Depopulation During the Early Historic Period (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1987) 43-44; John Connaway, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS, personal communication, April 2009. Smith, Archaeology of Aboriginal Culture Change in the Interior Southeast: Depopulation During the Early Historic Period, 43 indicates that Clarksdale bells date from the earlier half of the 16th-century to the first third of the 17th century. While Clarksdale bells have been found on a number of Vázquez de Coronado sites in New Mexico, e.g., Damp, The Battle of Hawikku, Archaeological Investigations of the Zuni-Coronado Encounter at Hawikku, the Ensuing Battle, and the Aftermath during the Summer of 1540, 39,40,42,46,49,105, and none have been found to date on later 16th-century sites in the Southwest, Clarksdale bells may have been carried by Juan de Zaldívar's party at Ácoma in 1598 (see reference to the use of "hawks bells" as trade items in George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, Don Juan de Oñate: Colonizer of New Mexico 1598-1628, Coronado Cuarentennial Publications, 1540-1940. Volume V (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico, 1953), 449. In addition, Clarksdale bells are known from later 16th-century contexts in the Southeastern U.S., e.g., at Santa Elena, reported in Stanley South, Russell K. Skowronek, and Richard E. Johnson 1988 Spanish Artifacts from Santa Elena. Anthropological Studies 7. Occasional Papers of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, 1988), 142. Chain mail, on the other hand, is known from late 16th-century and early 17th-century contexts in New Mexico, e.g., at the site of the 1598-1610 colony (San Gabriel del Yunque Oweenge) established by Juan de Oñate in northern New Mexico, and reported in Florence H. Ellis, San Gabriel del Yunque as Seen by an Archaeologist (Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone Press, 1989), 46.
9. Stanley M. Hordes, "The Historical Context of LA 54147", in Bradley J. Vierra, ed., A Sixteenth-Century Spanish Campsite in the Tiguex Province. Laboratory of Anthropology. Note No. 475. (Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico, Research Section, 1989), 218.
10. George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey 1967. Expedition into New Mexico Made by Antonio de Espejo 1582-1583 as Revealed in the Journal of Diego Pérez de Luxán, A Member of the Party. Quivira Society Publications. Volume I. (Los Angeles, CA: The Quivira Society, [reprinted New York, NY: Arno Press]), 120; Hammond and Rey, Don Juan de Oñate: Colonizer of New Mexico 1598-1628, 18, 394-395; George Herbert E. Bolton, Spanish Exploration in the Southwest 1542-1706 (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916), 204-206.
11. Richard Flint, "Without Them, Nothing Was Possible: The Coronado Expedition's Indian Allies," New Mexico Historical Review 84(1) (2009): 75,115; Flint, No Settlement, No Conquest: A History of the Coronado Entrada, 139-141; Hammond and Rey, Don Juan de Oñate: Colonizer of New Mexico 1598-1628; Marc Simmons, The Last Conquistador: Juan de Onate and the Settling of the Far Southwest (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), 127-132; Hammond and Rey, Expedition into New Mexico Made by Antonio de Espejo 1582-1583 as Revealed in the Journal of Diego Pérez de Luxán, A Member of the Party, 88-94; George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, The Rediscovery of New Mexico 1580-1594: The Explorations of Chamusacado, Espejo, Castaño de Sosa, Morlete and Leyva de Bonilla y Humaña. Coronado Cuarentennial Publications, 1540-1940. Volume III. (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico, 1966), 120.
12. William Billeck 2009. "Traces of Coronado: Spanish Glass Beads in the Southwest and the Plains." Poster presented at the 74th Annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Atlanta, GA, April 2009. We would like to extend our significant thanks to William Billeck for making his poster available to us in digital form after the conference and for the additional information regarding his work after the presentation of his SAA poster in Atlanta.
13. For example, the use of lead isotope analyses to source metal ores associated with non-diagnostic, non-descript objects such as lead shot or copper sheet fragments. The successful use of such techniques on Vázquez de Coronado assemblages has been reported by Charles Haecker, using objects from sites in Texas and New Mexico; see Charles Haecker, "Tracing Coronado's Route through Trace Element Analysis," in Between Entrada and Salida: New Mexico Perspectives on the Coronado Expedition, symposium organized by Charles Haecker and Clay Mathers, Society for Historical Archaeology, Albuquerque, New Mexico, January 12, 2008.