Zuni-Cibola Complex

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For popular culture references to Cibola legends, see Seven Cities of Gold (myth)
Zuni-Cibola Complex
Nearest city Zuni, New Mexico
Area 750 acres (300 ha)
NRHP Reference # 74002267[1]
NMSRCP # 374
Significant dates
Added to NRHP December 2, 1974
Designated NHLD December 2, 1974[2]
Designated NMSRCP February 28, 1975
"Landscape with an episode from the Conquest of America", probably a fanciful artist's conception of Coronado attacking Hawikuh in 1540. Mountain in the left background is probably Mount Taylor.

Zuni-Cibola Complex, which comprises Hawikuh, Yellow House, Kechipbowa, and Great Kivas, is a set of sites near Zuni, New Mexico.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1974.[2][3]

The Zuni-Cibola Complex comprises a series of sites on the Zuni Reservation, containing house ruins, kivas, pictographs, petroglyphs, trash mounds, and a mission church and convent. They have proven to be an important source of material providing evidence for the fusion, in prehistoric times, of Mogollon and Anasazi traits that led in subsequent centuries to a distinct Zuni culture.[2]


The name Cibola first entered recorded history in 1539, when Spaniards in southern New Spain (present day Mexico and Central America) heard rumors that there was a province by this name with "Seven Cities of Gold", located across the desert hundreds of leagues to the north. These rumors were largely caused by reports given by the four shipwrecked survivors of the failed Narváez expedition, including Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and an African slave named Esteban Dorantes, or Estevanico. Upon finally returning to New Spain, the adventurers said they had heard stories from Natives about cities with great and limitless riches.

Upon hearing the castaways' tales, Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza organized an expedition headed by the Franciscan friar Marcos de Niza, who took Estevanico as his guide. During the voyage, in a place called Vacapa (probably located somewhere around the state of Sonora), de Niza sent Estevanico to scout ahead. A short while later, Estevanico met a monk who had heard stories from the Natives about seven cities called "Cibola", said to be overflowing with riches. Estevanico did not wait for the friar, but instead continued traveling until he reached Cibola (Háwikuh, now in New Mexico), where, at the hands of the Zuni tribe, he met his death, and his companions were forced to flee.

Marcos de Niza returned to Mexico City and said that the expedition had continued even after the death of Estevanico. He claimed that they had seen Cíbola from a great distance, and that it was larger than Tenochtitlan; in this city, the people used dishes of gold and silver, decorated their houses with turquoise, and had gigantic pearls, emeralds, and other beautiful gems. It is now believed by some historians that the mica-inflected clay of the adobe pueblos may have created an optical illusion when inflamed by the setting sun, thus fueling the tale.

Upon hearing this news, the Viceroy de Mendoza wasted no time in organizing a large military expedition to take possession of the riches that the monk had described with such vivid detail. Upon the Viceroy's command, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado began his expedition, taking the friar Marcos de Niza as his guide. Coronado left with a small group of explorers from Culiacán on April 22, 1540.

When Coronado arrived at Hawikuh pueblo, which the chroniclers called Cevola, Tzibola, or Cibola, he discovered that Marcos de Niza's stories were lies, and that there were in fact no treasures as the friar had described. He also found that, contrary to the friar's account, the sea was not within view from that region, but it was instead many days' journey away. Nevertheless, Coronado occupied the region by military force and used it as a base for future explorations.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b c "National Historic Landmarks Survey, New Mexico" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  3. ^ Note: A National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination document should be available upon request from the National Park Service for this site, but it appears not to be available on-line from the NPS Focus search site.

External links[edit]


  • Crampton, C. Gregory. The Zunis of Cibola. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1977.