Saturday, January 4, 2014


Possible Coronado inscription. McGlone, Barker,
and Leonard, 1994, p. 74-1.

Possible Coronado inscription. McGlone, Barker,
and Leonard, 1994, p. 74-1.

In the western Oklahoma panhandle this inscription can be found on a cliff. It purports to record the passage through this area of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado y Lujan on his 1541 expedition searching for the wealthy civilization called Quivira to the east and says “Coronatto, 1541”. If authentic, it is the earliest known historic inscription in North America.

Close-up of the possible Coronado inscription.
McGlone, Barker, and Leonard, 1994, p. 74-1

“It was early fall, the time when the maize plants begin turning brown, 1540. Twenty-two summers had passed since the conqueror Hernán Cortés first stepped ashore on the mainland of Mexico, to trade he said. Now, eighteen hundred miles northwest of that dank tropical coast, a small column of helmeted Spanish soldiers marched across high, semi-arid country through arroyos, chamisa, and piñon to receive homage from the fortress-pueblo of Cicuye.
Even though they numbered not more than twenty, this medieval-looking detachment from the expedition of Gov. Francisco Vázquez de Coronado faithfully represented the conquering forces of Catholic Spain in America. The youthful captain, who wore a coat of mail and rode a horse covered with leather or quilted cotton armor, hailed his earthly Holy Caesarean Catholic Majesty in the same breath as his Heavenly Father.” (Kessell 1979:3)

Coronado's expedition by Frederic Remington.

Map of the route of Coronado's expedition. Wikipedia.

After searching the Llano Estecado of eastern New Mexico and northwestern Texas his party met a band of Native Americans that he called the Teyas, probably a Caddoan speaking group.
“The Teyas told Coronado that he was going the wrong direction. Quivira lay to the north. After more than thirty days journey, Coronado found a river larger than any he had seen before. This was the Arkansas and the spot where he reached it was probably a few miles east of present day Dodge City, Kansas. The Spaniards and their Indian allies followed the Arkansas northeast for three days and found Quivirans hunting buffalo. Coronado reached Quivira itself after a few more days of traveling. Coronado believed that there were 25 settlements in Quivira. The Quivirans were simple people. Both men and women were nearly naked. Coronado spent twenty-five days among the Quivirans trying to learn of richer kingdoms just over the horizon. He found nothing but straw-thatched villages of up to two hundred houses and fields containing corn, beans, and squash. A copper bell was the only evidence of wealth he discovered. The Quivirans were almost certainly the ancestors of the Wichita people.” ( )

Quivira, mid-1890s excavation, Archaeology, Nov.-Dec. 2013, p. 10.

Quivira - 1970 excavation, Archaeology, Nov.-Dec. 2013, p. 10.

“In the mid-1890s, the site now known as El Cuartelejo was excavated by two professors from the University of Kansas. They found the lower portion of stone walls that formed the foundation of a pueblo, inside of which were artifacts such as stone and bone tools, ornaments, and pottery sherds, some of which came from the pueblos of the Southwest. In 1970, Tom Witty of the Kansas State Historical Society excavated further, and unearthed the entire pueblo floor, hearths, and postholes. – El Cuartelejo – was a seven-room pueblo – covering about 1,600 square feet.” (Banyasz 2013:10) So, Quivira was not quite up to Coronado’s expectations. It had been built and occupied by Taos Indians in the 1600s in what is now Western Kansas, and was later occupied by a group of Picuris Indians between 1696 and 1706. (Banyasz 2013:10) So, far from the 25 cities wealthy with gold that Coronado expected, it turned out to be a small 7-room pueblo. Quite a disappointment that.

Proposed route marker from Coronado expedition. 
Bill McGlone, Ted Barker, and Phil Leonard, 1994.

Proposed route marker from Coronado expedition. 
Bill McGlone, Ted Barker, and Phil Leonard, 1994.

Some historians claim that Coronado carved the Castilian-style inscription "Coronatto, 1541" on Autograph Rock near Boise City in Cimarron County. They also ascribe a compass-like marking in the area to the same source and believe it to be a route-marker. As I stated above this would, if authentic, be the earliest known historic inscription in North America, but its authenticity is debatable. That leaves the Don Juan de Oñate inscription on Morro rock, Cibola County, New Mexico as probably the earliest known historic inscription since the Oñate inscription is agreed by historians to be genuine. But isn’t this an intriguing possibility?


Banyasz, Malin Grunberg

2013    Off The Grid, Archaeology, November/December 2013, Vol. 66, No. 6, p.10.

Kessell, John L.
1979    Kiva, Cross, and Crown, the Pecos Indians and New Mexico 1540-1840, National Park Service, U. S. Department of the Interior, Washington D. C.

McGlone, Bill, Ted Barker, and Phil Leonard
1994    Petroglyphs of Southeast Colorado and the Oklahoma Panhandle, Mithras, Inc., Kamas, UT.

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