Monday, March 06, 2017

Nugent Brasher's "Exploring the Coronado Trail - A Case Study For Historians"

I'm so pleased! Nugent Brasher, the opinionated petroleum geologist who has been making huge waves this century in American archaeology with his efforts to pin down the exact location of the 1540-41 Coronado Trail in the American Southwest, has just published a new article in the New Mexico Historical Review (Volume 92, Number 1, Winter 2017, pp. 21-52) entitled: "Exploring the Coronado Trail - A Case Study For Historians". (Available for a fee at the NMHR website.)

I posted in 2007 about Brasher, and the clever way he associated Coronado's fabled ruin of Chichilticale with Kuykendall Ruins in Arizona. The connection eluded historians for many decades. A Eureka moment if there ever was one! There are other Coronado Trail hunters out there too (e.g., Buck Wells), and they seem to be gravitating towards a new consensus that the Coronado Trail passed from Arizona into New Mexico to Hidden Valley along the Gila River, following Blue Creek and the San Francisco River north. More direct routes to Hawikuh through Sheldon, Arizona, or farther west, are now in disfavor, simply because there isn't enough water on those routes. The huge size of the Coronado expedition meant they had to follow the water, no matter what. And now, there is some physical evidence to support the Hidden Valley/Blue Creek route - the discovery of 16th-Century artifacts: a belt buckle at Hidden Valley and an aglet on the Minnie Bell Ranch.

Brasher's new work is mostly a historiographic study of his methods: reading the original documents in Spanish rather than possibly-misleading translations, walking the ground, drawing on trail-walking experience in the third world, talking to ranch owners and others with intimate knowledge of the landscape on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border, making maps, building visualization software, and rating leads in order of importance. Brasher's (unstated) opinion seems to be that people who don't look for Coronado's Trail using the methods of petroleum geologists, or methods very similar, are a special breed of idiot. Brasher's right, you know!

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