THE
CONQUISTADORS LOST TREASURE
OF THE GRAND CANYON


"Following their overthrow by Cortez, the Aztec priests, in the Fall of 1520 AD, led a procession exceeding over 2,000 men and slaves on a mass exodus north in an attempt to return to their ancient and traditional homeland. Without draft animals or wheeled carts the treasure-bearing slaves traveled in a northwesterly direction for what has been said to have many moons, which has been interpreted to mean close to a year, possibly more. Upon reaching their destination the treasure was hidden and the slaves put to death.

"When Cortez and his troops reentered Mexico City in August of 1521 the vast majority of the Aztec gold and treasure that had been there when he initially raided the city, but had to leave behind, was gone. It was just either reaching or had already reached then secreted away 1500 miles north in it's to this day unknown hiding place somewhere in present day Arizona, New Mexico, or Utah. Legend or no, the gold disappeared and 500 years later, still missing."



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THE GRAND CANYON, LOST AZTEC GOLD, SPANISH CONQUISTADORS, AND THE COLORADO RIVER

the Wanderling

On November 18, 1519, after having sailed from Cuba and marching overland from Vera Cruz, the army of Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez entered the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, overthrowing Aztec control and imprisoning their ruler Montezuma, effectively taking control of the empire.

Seven months later, on June 30, 1520, the Aztec people rose up against the Spaniards. In an attempt to pacify the people Cortez had the disposed emperor appear before them. In a stunning miscalculation Montezuma was stoned to death by his own people. With Montezuma dead and the angry crowd storming the palace Cortez and his men had no option but to flee the city. During their retreat they were attacked from all sides by rocks and spears, and in the process had to abandon most of their gold and treasures, littering their escape route with what they had stolen from Montezuma's treasury. A good portion of the army was decimated, but Cortez himself was able to escape unharmed.

One year later, on August 13, 1521, after rebuilding his army and recruiting a heavy contingent of Tlaxcalan indigenous fighters, to a man natural enemies of the Aztec, Cortez retook the city. However, after a thorough search of every nook and cranny, cave, hole, lake, pond and potential hiding place, the treasure and gold they had to abandon during their retreat was not to be found. Cuauhtomoc, the new emperor, who was captured before he could flee the city, along with some of his closest courtiers were tortured in an attempt to learn the whereabouts of the Aztec treasure. Even with his feet held to a fire, the emperor was unable to produce more than several dozen hand carried baskets full of minor gold items and trinkets. Because the new leaders that inherited the Empire after Montezuma's death did not have the full confidence or backing of the High Priests, being kept in the dark as it were, the only valid information Cortez was able to extract from anybody was that the majority of treasure Cortez had in his possession prior to his forced departure from the city the year before is that it had been taken north.

It is the absence of any gold of merit being found, which was known to have existed by the conquistadors prior to their retreat, along with the two words "taken north" after having been forced out only under torture and the threat of death --- and overheard by many --- is where most if not all of the stories and the legends about lost Aztec Gold come from, a legend that breaks down to roughly the following:


Even though Cortez and his men had been driven from the city in June of 1520, with Montezuma dead and the empire in disarray, the Aztec High Priests, knowing full well it wouldn't be long before Cortez regrouped and returned, figured it was only a matter of time before a full and total collapse of their civilization would ensue. Taking both prospects into consideration, as stealthy as possible and covering their tracks every step of the way in every fashion imaginable, the priests gathered up all the treasures of the Aztec empire, tons of gold and silver, leaving a good portion of it in the form of sacred religious objects needed to reestablish their once great civilization.

Then, digging up the body of Montezuma, which had since been put into a state of mummification following their overthrow by Cortez, the Aztec priests, in the Fall of 1520 AD, the Aztec priests, in the Fall of 1520 AD, led a procession exceeding over 2,000 men and slaves on a mass exodus north in an attempt to return to their ancient and traditional homeland. Without draft animals or wheeled carts the treasure-bearing slaves traveled in a northwesterly direction for what has been said to have many moons, which has been interpreted to mean close to a year, possibly more. Upon reaching their destination the treasure was hidden and the slaves put to death.


Basically, what is being said is, just about the exact same time Cortez and his troops reentered Mexico City in August of 1521 the vast majority of the Aztec gold and treasure that had been there when he initially raided the city, but had to leave behind, was gone. It was just either reaching or had already reached then secreted away 1500 miles north in it's to this day unknown hiding place somewhere in present day Arizona, New Mexico, or Utah. Legend or no, the gold disappeared and 500 years later, still missing.

The interesting part of the story is, even though Cortez searched for years in an ever expanding arc north of Mexico City, and of which nothing of note was found, when Coronado marched north he was in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola and not Aztec lost gold --- which in the scheme of things is a deep mystery. True, Coronado's quest north was 20 years later, but still no major amount of gold was ever found, at least at the levels Cortez had in his possession originally, so I think there were other things at work. First, there was a heavily enforced separation of powers between Coronado and any official group searching for Aztec gold or treasure north of Mexico City and secondly, nobody had a clue as to how far north the treasure was taken, in the process excluding any worries of Coronado and his men coming across it.


None of the conquistadors of the era had any knowledge of Aztec history. If they had, they would have realized forerunners to the Aztec culture arrived in Tenochtitlan after migrating from the north, having left a place they called Atzlan, home of the seven caves. In 1789, two hundred years too late for Cortez and his ilk, but early for our standards, a Jesuit priest and historian who was born in Vera Cruz, Mexico named Francisco Javier Clavijero, who studied heavily the ancient history of the country and especially so the Aztecs, going through every codex, script, and hieroglyph he could find, deduced that Aztlan lay in an area along or near the Colorado River, most likely in present day Arizona. Clavijero traced their route down the west coast of Mexico to where present day Culiacan is, then to Lake Cuitzeo then to Tenochtitlan.

Why they left their homeland and migrated south is not clear, but it may have been caused by two initially unconnected events and supported by a third --- all three carrying cosmic significance. According to Aztec legend their southward migration began on May 24, 1064 AD. Ten years before there was a rare celestial event, the super nova explosion that created the Crab Nebula. For most in the ancient world, the heavenly sky, except for the sun, moon and planets, was fixed and unchanging. Then suddenly in 1054 a brand new star appeared that outshone all others, only to dim and disappear a few months later. That event may have been seen as a precursor to events. Then, in 1064 a volcanic explosion that created the Sunset Crater in Arizona occurred, wiping out hundreds and hundreds of square miles of arable crop land right in the same general area the Aztecs were said to have come from, reducing the ability of the indigenous peoples for miles around to grow sufficient quantities food. With little or no other choice but to migrate they headed south. Just when things seemed to have reached the worse, two years into their trek south the third sign occurred, Halley's Comet of 1066.

In the legend of the Aztecs the Aztecs are said to be the descendents of tribes from seven caves. Codex drawings of where they were said to have come from shows a single entrance to a cave that fans out into seven separate caves. If any of the stories or legends are true, or even have the vestige of truth, what bubbles up in my mind is that the cave, or a similar cave, was in the past history of the peoples who were to become the Aztecs. The high priests that moved the Aztec treasure north centuries after they had migrated south, put the gold and treasures in the ancient cave. As presented in Buddhism in America Before Columbus, the deified priest Quatu Zacca, a centuries long inhabitant of the area, living in a small house on an island in the Colorado River and possibly thought by the indigenous people to be immortal because of the lineage, may have been entrusted to care over the ancient cave from the time of the original departure to when the Aztec empire was to rise again.

In the book The Coronado Expedition, 1540-1542, Smithsonian Institution, 1892-1893, Part 1, author George Parker Winship, on page 406, Winship, speaking of one of Coronado's captains, Hernando de Alarcon questioning Native Americans he came in contact with along the Colorado River in 1540 AD, writes:


"When asked about gold and silver, the Indians said that they had some metal of the same color as the bells which the Spaniards showed them. This was not made nor found in their country, but came 'from a certain mountain where an old woman dwelt.' The old woman was called Guatuzaca."

(source)


That certain mountain where an old woman called "Guatuzaca" dwelt, a mountain that the Indians said had gold and silver, is quite possibly one and the same as the Aztec cave. It is not totally unusual for gold and silver, if not placer driven, to be dug out of the ground meaning a good chance of a cave, i.e., a mine. However, was the old woman really mining for gold or simply gathering it up off the floor of the cave and sending it down river a little at a time? Was the cave as big and as elaborate as eluded to or was it just a mine to get gold and silver out of the ground? As for Guatuzca, a woman at the mine in the mountains, and Quatu Zacca being deified priest or lama at a sanctuary on an island in the Colorado River, I think they were separate people, it's just that the Indians blanketed them all under the same broader term Quatu Zacca.

As Coronado marched north from Mexico City with hundreds and hundreds of armed men and horses, plus a 1000 Indian bearers, three ships left port on the Pacific side under the command of the aforementioned Alarcon, loaded to the gills with additional stores and materials for Coronado's army. Alarcon sailed into the Sea of Cortez entering the Colorado River and sailing up the river in an attempt to meet Coronado. After waiting several days and with no sign of Coronado's army, Alarcon offloaded the supplies,.

How far up river Alarcon traveled and where the location of the supplies were stashed is not known with any amount of certainty primarily because of insufficient archaeological evidence and the lack of formal reports. Where the supplies were unloaded and how far north along the river Alarcon sailed are not necessarily tied together, however. Lewis R. Freeman, in his book The Colorado River (1923), not talking about where the supplies were left, but how far Alarcon traveled up river, cites the work of Frederick S. Dellenbaugh who determined he got as far as the present day Blythe Canal 126 miles north of Yuma. He also cites Dr. Elliott Coues who felt that Alarcon was even farther north, 150 miles further north, reaching clear to where Needles, California is located, 282 miles north of present day Yuma. Freeman himself suggests that Alarcon offloaded his supplies somewhere along a 13 mile gap between the present day ghost town of Picacho located some 44 miles north of the Gila River and Lighthouse Rock, which is roughly 57 miles north of the Gila River, with Freeman really never getting into how far up river Alarcon may have really gone. However far Alarcon got up the river, unlike what was done in more recent times, he was charting new territory. There were no navigational maps or previous knowledge of the river such a depths, currents, or even where it actually came from. Everything was done on pure gut instincts and luck.


"The Colorado River, after spending most of it's long journey flowing miles and miles in a primarily southwest direction after leaving its headwaters suddenly turns due south for the rest of it's trip to the Gulf of California. It does so in a spot where the last of the high canyon walls of the Grand Canyon suddenly come to an end with the river opening into plateau where it is bordered on either side by basically flat desert land. Exiting the last of those high canyon walls onto the plateau the river begins to slow, it's southbound pace spreading out into a relative large lake. Ten miles into that lake there used to be an island that the eastern side hugged closer to the eastern riverbank, the immediate north end of the island covered with upstream debris such as logs and broken trees."

Cottonwood Island


In the main text above there is made mention of the scribes of the Conquistadors who write about a small island in a lake placed in the Colorado River. That island has been concluded to be the no longer in existent Cottonwood Island. Cottonwood Island was formed by a onetime lake created by a natural blockage some distance downstream that eventually became overcome releasing the main depth of the lake water to what became the more-or-less the normal outflow of the Colorado River. The island itself however still had sufficient water flow on either side of its banks to remain a viable intact island during the time of the Conquistadors and later European settlers. Today however, Cottonwood Island is completely submerged by Lake Mohave created by the manmade Davis Dam near Laughlin, Nevada. Lake Mohave in covering the island easily surpasses the width, length, and depth of the unnamed original lake that formed Cottonwood Island in the first place. As it was, none of the 1540s Spanish explorers, over land or by river, ever got much closer to Cottonwood Island than 40 miles if that. Anything they had to say was hearsay garnered from their Native American guides. It wasn't until the European explorers, exploiters, miners, and settlers other than the Conquistadors and their ilk started showing up in the area that Cottonwood Island was actually began showing up on the radar. By then Quatu-zaca and any traces thereof were long gone.


THE SECRET OF THE AZTEC TREASURE, GENE AUTRY COMICS, NOVEMBER 1942 VOLUME 1, ISSUE #3
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SECRETS OF THE AZTECS, ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN, DECEMBER 1956 ISSUE #79
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In the story Secrets of the Aztecs, a group of explorers using a raft made up of balsa wood logs set out to prove that people from Africa could have crossed the Atlantic to South America long before the advent of modern sailing vessels by using existing ocean currents. Somehow the explorers, after crossing the time barrier into the past, end up in the civilization of ancient Aztecs. Just before they leave one of the explorers gives the Aztec chief a gold watch as a gift. The explorers head into the Atlantic returning to normal time. Nobody believes their story so the explorers put together an expedition into the jungle and discover the now lost city. Reading the Secrets of the Aztecs story in my youth prompted me in later years to make an impromptu time capsule of sorts and bury it in the centuries unchanged rocky outcrops and mountains along the five mile wide outwash plain just east of the long submerged Cottonwood Island with all honorable intentions of retrieving it one day.


DESERT SHIPS, SPANISH GOLD, AND COLORADO RIVER FLOODS


EARLY COLORADO RIVER STEAMBOAT LANDINGS


THE COLORADO RIVER: WAS IT NAVIGABLE?


VIKINGS OF THE DESERT SOUTHWEST


THE KENSINGTON STONE
THE CASE FOR NORSEMEN IN AMERICA
BEFORE COLUMBUS



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E-MAIL
THE WANDERLING

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