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Seven Cities of Cibola

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Title: Seven Cities of Cibola  
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Subject: Grand Canyon, History of California before 1900, Canadian, Texas, Conquistador, Bless Me, Ultima, Estevanico, Marcos de Niza, Conquistador (game), Baboquivari Peak Wilderness, Moroccan American
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Seven Cities of Cibola

Zuni-Cibola Complex
Nearest city Zuni, New Mexico
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 74002267
Significant dates
Added to NRHP December 2, 1974[1]
Designated NHLD December 2, 1974[2]

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

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]

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

Hawikuh Ruins is itself a National Historic Landmark.


The name Cibola first entered recorded history in 1539, when Spaniards in New Spain (now Mexico) heard rumors that there was a province by this name with "Seven Cities of Gold", located across the desert hundreds of miles 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.

The entire "province of Cibola" (Zuni-inhabited territory) was said to consist of seven modest pueblos or villages, which were fully described in the contemporary documents and reports. It has been conjectured[weasel words] that the name comes from a Zuni word meaning "buffalo".

Cibola in fiction and popular culture

  • In the Stephen King book The Stand, Trashcan Man is instructed by Randall Flagg to meet him in Cibola, which is later revealed to be Las Vegas.
  • Scrooge McDuck and his nephews discover the seven cities in the comic "The Seven Cities of Cibola" by Carl Barks.[4][5]
  • Scott O'Dell's 1966 book The King's Fifth refers to seven cities of gold in the land of Cíbola.
  • The Vertigo/DC comic book series Jack of Fables recently began a storyline called "Americana" which relates the efforts of Jack of the Tales in entering Cíbola (issue 17, January 08 cover date).
  • Cíbola was discovered beneath Mount Rushmore in National Treasure: Book of Secrets, a 2007 film starring Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger.
  • David Moles' 2010 alternate history novella, Seven Cities of Gold, draws upon the legend of Cibola to set the stage for cultural and religious conflict.
  • Edward Abbey's autobiographical recount of his summer as a park ranger at Arches National Park, Desert Solitaire, contains a reference to "seven modern cities of Cibola" including Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff.
  • The quest for Cibola was in an episode of the U.S. television series "Daniel Boone" with Fess Parker.
  • There is an arc in the Italian Western/Science Fiction comic Zagor about seven cities of gold which were abandoned and were remnants of an ancient highly developed civilization (Zagor #355-357, ITA/CRO: "Le sette città di Cibola" / "Sedam gradova Cibole").
  • Fictional romance author Kristin Hannah wrote "The Enchantment" which is a story of the quest for the legendary lost city of Cibola in the late 1800s. (1992)
  • Progressive rock band Rush released a song "Seven Cities of Gold" on album "Clockwork Angels" on June 12, 2012. The liner notes refer to Cíbola.
  • The video game Uncharted: Golden Abyss uses Quivira (one of the Seven Cities of Gold) as a final destination for the quest. The game also gives an explanation why Marcos de Niza lied about the location of the cities even though he really did find them.


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

External links

  • Portal to Texas History.
  • Zuni-Cibola National Historical Park, the Park that Died A-Borning, National Parks Traveler, June 28, 2009
  • Journal of Marco de Nicas Translation of Marco de Nicas' (Niza) 1539 journal of his visit to Ceuola (Cibola) where Stephan (Estevanico) was killed.
  • Journal of Alvar Nunez Translation of the journal of the 9 years Alvar Nunez spent wandering from Florida to the Pacific during the failed Narváez expedition.
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