Coronado Historic Site

Finding evidence of Coronado at Coronado Historic Site

November 12, 2018


Major archaeological news is being reported from the Coronado Historic Site in Bernalillo, New Mexico. An ongoing archaeological metal detector survey of the site revealed, for the first time, tangible evidence that the expedition of Vázquez de Coronado was present at this site. (*See below links to Media Resources: video interview, site & artifact images.)

Although archaeological and historical research has been focused on the Coronado Historic Site and its Pueblo of Kuaua for nearly 140 years, previous excavation, survey, and archival research had not identified any material evidence of the Vázquez de Coronado Expedition at this site.

In July 2017, a large-scale archaeological metal detector survey of Coronado Historic Site was initiated by Dr. Clay Mathers of The Coronado Institute with the support of New Mexico Historic Sites, the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, the Pueblo of Isleta, the Pueblo of Sandia, the Pueblo of Santa Ana, and Holmans, Inc.

Now in its 16th month, the survey has revealed the first definitive objects from that site that can be linked to the expedition led by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado. Objects recovered include copper crossbow boltheads, chain mail armor, nails, lead shot and other equipment. These artifacts offer compelling evidence to suggest the site was attacked by Vázquez de Coronado during the expedition’s extended stay in the Albuquerque-Bernalillo area between the summer of 1540 and spring of 1542.

The extent of the battle is not yet known. It may have been a raid for supplies or a demonstration of force by the Spaniards and their allies. However, it is clear that the people of Kuaua Pueblo resisted. Thus far, sling stones, arrowheads, and large ground stone axes and mauls have been found in association with early Spanish military objects at Coronado Historic Site.

Artifact types, such as caret-headed nails and copper crossbow boltheads, are diagnostic of the Vázquez de Coronado expedition. They have been found at other sites associated with this expedition in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, Pecos, El Morro National Monument, and Zuni. These distinctive objects are found widely in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century contexts in the U.S. Southeast, the Caribbean, Central-South America, and Europe. It is known that crossbow boltheads and caret-headed nails were no longer in use by the time Spanish-led expeditions again returned to what is now New Mexico in the late sixteenth century.

A registered professional archaeologist, Dr. Clay Mathers, has investigated a wide range of Vázquez de Coronado sites elsewhere in New Mexico (including Kyaki:ma, Hawikku, Kechiba:wa, El Morro, Piedras Marcadas, Santiago and Pecos), and has published widely on sixteenth-century Spanish-led entradas. Research at Coronado Historic Site is ongoing. It is focused on identifying the range of activities, objects and spatial concentration of materials, represented at the site and evaluating their significance.

Some of the results and artifacts associated with the metal detector survey are anticipated to go on display at Coronado Historic Site in the summer of 2019.

Coronado Historic Site is located at 485 Kuaua Road in Bernalillo, New Mexico. It is open six days a week, Wednesday through Monday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Docent led tours occur on the hour, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and are free with admission. Admission is $5.00 per adult. There is never a charge for children. Coronado Historic Site is free to New Mexico seniors Wednesday and all New Mexico residents on the first Sunday of every month. For more information: 505-867-5351 or

Link to NM Department of Cultural Affairs video approved for media use of site & interview with Matthew Barbour, Regional Manager Coronado and Jemez Historic Sites:

  • Interview with Matthew Barbour 

  • Video of Coronado Historic Site: Battlefield Site, Rio Grande, Visitors Center (exterior) and Ruins

  • Video of battlefield site, close up ground, long shot visitors center, Rio Grande, visitors center exterior and Kuaua ruins

  • Video of Clay Mathers during his lecture


  • Arrow point from crossbow

  • Sling stones

  • Lead musket ball

  • Several musket balls

  • Musket balls flattened after impact

  • Chain mail artifact juxtaposed with modern chain mail

  • Spanish nails

  • Ornamental metal possibly from horse bridle

  • ax heads

  • Arrow head

  • Spanish finger ring


About New Mexico Historic Sites: On March 14, 1931, the New Mexico Historic Site system was established by an Act for the Preservation of the Scientific Resources of New Mexico, to "declare by public proclamation that historic and prehistoric structures and other objects of scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the State of New Mexico, shall be state monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof such parcels of land as may be necessary to the proper care and management of the objects to be protected." Under the direction of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, six sites are open to the public: Coronado, Fort SeldenFort Stanton, Fort Sumner Historic Site/Bosque Redondo Memorial, Jemez, and Lincoln. The Los Luceros Historic Property is open to the public during scheduled events and by appointment (505) 476-1130.

In 2004, the J. Paul Taylor Family bequeathed the Barela-Reynolds House and Property on the Mesilla Plaza to the Department of Cultural Affairs.  Still serving as J. Paul Taylor’s private home, the property will become a Historic Site after his passing. Events, news releases and images about activities at New Mexico Historic Sites, and other Department of Cultural Affairs divisions can be accessed at​



Related Photos

17-Coronado-2018 Clay Mathers lectures at Coronado Historic Site 11-10-18, Photo by Richard Estrada
17-Coronado - Kuaua Ruins Photo by Richard Estrada
17-Coronado-2018 Coronado Visitors Center Photo by Richard Estrada
17-Coronado-2018 Sandia Mountains & Rio Grande from Coronado Historic Site Photo by Richardo Estrada
17-Coronado-2018 Lead shot
17-Coronado-2018 Lead Shot, Photo by Richard Estrada
17-Coronado - Ring Photo by Richard Estrada
17-Coronado-2018 Metal Ornament Photo by Richard Estrada
17-Coronado -Chain Mail with scale, Photo by Clay Mathers
17-Coronado -2018 Caret-headed nails, Photo by Clay Mathers
Caret-headed nails with scale, Photo by Clay Mathers
17-Coronado -Chain Mail with scale, Photo by Clay Mathers
17-Coronado -2018 Crossbow Boltheads, Photo by Clay Mathers
17-Coronado -2018 Crossbow Boltheads with scale, Photo by Clay Mathers
17-Coronado-2018 Clay Mathers finds a Spanish bridle fragment at Coronado Historic Site, Photo by Matthew Barbour

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