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Medieval artifacts on Coronado sites?


Now that this Coronado expedition research is gaining wider recognition, people are asking questions, making comments, and providing input. One recent inquiry related to the classification of some of the artifacts as Medieval when it is clear that the Coronado expedition occurred during the Age of Discovery/Exploration that lies in the Early Modern period or Renaissance era. Periods used by scholars are not rigidly defined even though they appear to be. When the transitions occurred that characterize these periods may vary geographically. The  Age of Discovery/Exploration is loosely defined, in part because of regional variation with respect to when these expeditions occurred. Therefore the visible impacts to the exploring society and those explored will vary across space.

Figure 13 horseshoe.jpg

Medieval Horseshoes

While the Coronado Expedition was in the Renaissance/Early Modern period, some of the artifacts are considered Medieval in a classificatory sense. They begin being made in the Medieval period and continue to be made and used a bit later in time. For example, a special type/style of horseshoe is found on some Coronado expedition sites that does not continue past 1600 or so in this area and since no other expeditions or campaigns occurred in this area for another 150 years, these unique horseshoes are characteristic of Coronado.


It seems that greatest clarity is provided when distinguishing these artifacts in a way that is consistent with the majority of classifications, that is, as Medieval. This style of making horseshoes originates in the Medieval period and continues on briefly (relatively speaking) and then goes out of style.


Clearly the manufacture and use of this style of horseshoe does not conform to scholarly temporal classification schemes relevant to the fine arts in Europe. The same can be said of the crossbow bolt heads that are generally obsolete by the end of the expedition as new and better weapons are introduced.


There are a series of artifacts that have different end dates, and termination points as to when they last entered the archaeological record. It is not just when the artifacts were used but when they were made and the tradition from which they arise that are of relevance. These are so distinctive because of their origin in the Medieval period. Artifacts occur and persist separately from the grand classificatory schemes in which they reside. The duration of their use is independent of the temporal frameworks that work so well for classical art and architecture, especially in hinterland areas that are far from the centers of cultural florescence (as we tend to define these).  

period of transition

This expedition occurred during a transition time for many of the weapons and other items of material culture. This fact makes artifacts difficult to classify. We are still learning what artifacts are distinctive for this period beyond the basic ones that everybody understands.  As a period of transition, it has traits of earlier times as well as some elements that are beginning to change and that are recognized as characteristic of later.


Additionally, many of the items used on this expedition are holdovers from much earlier. By referring to them as Medieval, consistent with existing classifications, we are linking to the concept that many aspects of the material culture were continuations of older styles. They have links to the preceding era rather than the one that follows. They do not persist for very much longer and therefore belong to an earlier tradition. This is the point of calling these artifacts Medieval. They are a medieval style. They are not generalized Spanish Colonial artifacts in our area but their use and manufacture here can be narrowed to a more limited time period. Many aspects of material culture change substantially after this. In southern Arizona, the horseshoes and many of the nails are very different by the time the next Europeans enter the area.

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