Twenty-five volunteers, including 16 members of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes from Oklahoma, combed a 200-foot-wide section of field this week in northeast Arkansas City to search for artifacts from a once-thriving, 400-year-old Native American settlement.
Under the direction of Cowley College archaeology instructor Meredith Mahoney, the volunteers lined up arms-length apart and walked the area, seeking remnants of stone tools and pottery used by the inhabitants of Etzanoa, a settlement of about 20,000 people.
The Wichita tribe members included 12 high school and college-aged student interns, plus four adults. They came to find out more about their ancestors, who archaeologists say lived in Etzanoa, the second-largest and perhaps the largest settlement in the United States in pre-Columbian days.
Archaeological research shows the Wichita ancestors lived in Etzanoa from about 1425 to the early 1700s. They were visited in 1601 by Spanish explorers.
After an hour’s work, the volunteers took a water break in a shady area at the edge of the field. They had placed dozens of tiny colored flags in the field. Each flag represented a potential artifact — mainly small flakes of rock that might have been shaved off by the Etzanoa people as they manufactured their tools.
“Do you think there’s an archaeological site here?” Mahoney asked the group. A chorus of volunteers shouted yes.
Mahoney said the field survey was a follow-up to a similar one on June 13 involving summer school students from Arkansas City Middle School. That group also planted dozens of flags.
“We knew from the ’90s construction of the bypass that there were two sites (where Native Americans lived),” said Mahoney, referring to both the east and the west side of the U.S. 77 bypass. “Now we’re making an argument that this side (the west side) is part of the whole site.”
This information was provided by Etzanoa Conservancy board member Foss Farrar.