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The artifact may be linked to Spanish explorer Coronado’s expedition through the Texas Panhandle

News Sector — DALLAS (EMS) – This is a small piece of obsidian, a little over 5 centimeters long, probably found on a hardscrabble ranch in the Texas panhandle. But when SMU anthropologist Matthew Boulanger examines it, he has a mental image of Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado crossing the plains more than 470 years ago in search of a legendary city of gold.

Boulanger believes the flaked stone tool with its cutting edge was likely left behind by a member of Coronado’s expedition, which included natives of Mexico, as they traveled through parts of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma and Kansas. His theory is supported by a spectrometric analysis of the blade’s chemical composition, which links it to the Sierra de Pachuca mountain range in central Mexico, where indigenous people used obsidian to produce cutting tools until ‘to the Spanish conquest.

“This small, unassuming artifact meets all the requirements for compelling evidence of Coronado’s presence in the Texas Panhandle,” said Baker. “This is the correct form of the artifact, it is entirely consistent with other finds, the correct material, found in the right location, and there is no indication of an intentional hoax.”

Boulanger, director of archaeological research collections at SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, published his findings in the Journal of the North Texas Archaeological Societywith co-author Charlene Erwin.

Other researchers have traced the path of Spanish explorers and indigenous peoples of Mexico through what is now the United States through the presence of obsidian blades from central Mexico; As the blades were fragile, they were thrown away along the way when they broke.

Boulanger admits that where the blade was found is open to conjecture, as he examined the artifact after its collector’s death. But a reconstructed map of the Coronado expedition shows that the travelers likely passed through the ranch near McLean, Texas, where collector Lloyd Erwin grew up.

As a child, Erwin became interested in historical items and began collecting items he found on the ranch. Years later, his daughter-in-law, Charlène, asked Boulanger to authenticate some of the obsidian pieces from a collection of objects he had framed. Upon closer inspection, Boulanger noticed a greenish tint on a piece of obsidian that appeared to have been placed in the frame as an afterthought.

Using a spectrometer, Boulanger traced obsidian to the Sierra de Pachuca mountain range in central Mexico, where indigenous peoples widely used obsidian to produce tools until the Spanish conquest.

So how did an obsidian blade from central Mexico end up in the Texas Panhandle? There is no clear evidence of a trade network that connected the indigenous peoples of the Texas Panhandle with those living in central Mexico before the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the early 1500s.

Boulanger proposed three theories to consider: young Lloyd Erwin obtained the blade through trade or exchange of artifacts with other collectors, the blade is a hoax to draw attention to Erwin and his collection, or the blade was actually found in Texas by Erwin and is indeed an archaeological find. After reconstructing Erwin’s travels and interviewing his family, Boulanger believes that the third hypothesis is correct.

He suspects the obsidian blade was carried north by one of the many indigenous peoples of Mexico who accompanied the Coronado expedition to Quivira, near present-day Salina, Kansas. If more corroborating evidence is discovered near where Erwin found the blade, it could provide archaeologists with more evidence that the artifact is part of a site linked to Coronado and a clue to the expedition’s trail .

“Since we know that Erwin found the knife on his family ranch, we can assume that someone on the Coronado expedition threw it away,” Boulanger said. “When I talk to item collectors, I tell them to document where they find items. Since most of us now own a cell phone, we can easily record GPS coordinates. You can now provide archaeologists with precise locations, helping them authenticate artifacts and potentially lead to more discoveries.

About SMU

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