What We Do: Investigations

In Search of Coronado’s Trail

Brass Clarksdale bells

Brass Clarksdale bells

caret-head nails

Caret-head nails

Nueva Cadiz glass beads

Nueva Cadiz glass beads

Copper crossbow bolt-heads

Copper crossbow bolt-heads, courtesy of the Museum of New Mexico

Obsidian blades

Obsidian blades

Copper aglets

Copper aglets

Launched in August of 2004, the Coronado Project was an outreach and public education project that sought to determine the route of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado’s infamous expedition of 1540 from northern Mexico to the Pueblo of Zuni. Archaeology Southwest anticipated that once local residents in Arizona and New Mexico became aware of key Coronado-era artifact types, they might be able to help solve the mystery of Coronado’s route. These rare artifacts include copper crossbow boltheads (arrow tips), crossbow parts and accessories, short copper or brass aglets (lace tips), Nueva Cadiz glass beads, sheet brass Clarksdale bells, obsidian-edged swords and lances, and caret-head nails (horseshoe nails).

Archaeology Southwest sponsored a series of public lectures throughout southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, mailed hundreds of information packets and videos directly to local residents, and held “Coronado Roadshows” in Willcox, Lordsburg, Springerville, and Reserve. Inspired by PBS’s “The Antiques Roadshow,” these roadshows invited residents to bring in artifacts that they thought might be related to the Coronado expedition.

Although no definitive Coronado-era artifacts were brought to the roadshows, an incredible array of important historical artifacts was brought to these events by animated crowds. Some of the more significant finds include a flint-lock rifle—almost completely intact—dating from 1750–1800. There are only a few examples of this kind of firearm in collections today. Also turned in was an unbroken spur dating to the late 1700s; it was found in an area known to have been used as an 18th-century Spanish trail between Tucson and Zuni. Scholars took notes on these artifacts and returned them, to be kept in the stewardship of their owners.

Project scholar Shirley Cushing Flint, although disappointed no Coronado artifacts surfaced, deemed the venture a great success. “The project is sure to have lasting ripple effects as information spreads from people who were in the audiences to others in their communities,” she said. Dr. Richard Flint, Shirley’s husband and a project scholar, fully agreed. “The project permitted introduction of the possibility of regional research on the Coronado expedition in a non-threatening way,” he said. “And it allowed the scholars to share information with local people and they with us. In that way, it fully met our hopes and expectations.”

Click here to view a 10-minute video on the search for the Coronado expedition’s route.

For further readings and links to more information on Coronado’s expedition, click here.

Major support for “In Search of the Coronado Trail” was generously provided by:

Southwestern Foundation for Education and Historical Preservation
New Mexico Humanities Council
KUAT-TV, Tucson, Arizona

Coronado Scholars:
John Madsen
Shirley Cushing Flint
Richard Flint
William K. Hartmann
Gayle Hartmann
Homer Thiel

Additional thanks to:

Arizona State Museum, Arizona Historical Society, Piney Hollow Bead & Jewelry Store, and Proline Graphics

Don Collier, Gayle Hartmann, Don Burgess, Linda Pierce, William H. Doelle, Dan Duncan, Fran Sherlock, Hector Gonzalez, Martin Rubio, Tom Kleespie, Twanya Kaber, Stacy Green, Laurel Turner, Barbara Gerres, Debra Smith, and Kathy Klump

For more information or to report a possible Coronado-era artifact, contact Archaeology Southwest by email or call 520-882-6946.


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