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Archaeologists Think They Have Found Conquistador’s Campsite In Texas

A handful of horseshoe nails and some copper tips from bolts shot from crossbows appear to the be remains of a major west Texas campsite on the “lost trail” of 16th-century Spanish explorer Francisco Coronado, archaeologists said Monday.

Additional exploration could prove that the site, a three-mile area of Blanco Canyon near Lubbock, was the place where Coronado’s 1,500-man army spent two weeks while the would-be conquistador and a smaller band explored Kansas, said Donald Blakeslee, an archeologist from Wichita State University in Kansas.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, an aristocratic figure in New Spain, conducted the first organized exploration of what is now the American Southwest from 1540 to 1542 in search of gold and Aztec-type kingdoms to conquer.

He found no gold and no rich kingdoms, and returned to Mexico City after being injured in a fall from his horse.

Fragmentary and seemingly contradictory accounts of his travels have made it impossible for scholars to agree on his route, Blakeslee said, adding that the “Texas portion (of Coronado’s travels) has been one of the critical problems.”

However, working with a team of archaeology enthusiasts from the area, professional archaeologists, and historians and students from the Kansas university, Blakeslee said he believes he has pinpointed the location of one of two major campsites recorded in Spanish documents.

Using metal detectors to sweep an area where a portion of a chain mail glove had been found in the 1960s, Blakeslee and his team found numerous crossbow points and horseshoe nails, as well as a part of a buckle from a sword belt, what appears to have been a brass coin and numerous shards from 16th century Pueblo Indian pottery.