Deni Smyr claimed she found hundreds of artifacts related to the 16th-century Spanish expedition. These included pieces of copper and iron crossbow bolts and distinctive caret-headed nail heads, medieval horseshoes and spurs, bits of chain mail armor, and a sword point.
The "trophy artifact" was a bronze wall gun that measured more than 3 feet in length and weighed approximately 40 pounds. It was found on the floor of a structure, which she claimed could be evidence of the oldest European settlement in the United States.
Seymour said, "This is history-changing," and referred to herself as "Sherlock Holmes of history." "It's unquestionably Coronado."
Independent researcher, she revealed her findings on Jan. 29, in a fully-sold lecture to more 100 people at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park.
Seymour does not disclose the exact location of the site. However, her description of it in the Santa Cruz Valley puts it at least 40 mi west of Coronado National Memorial. This overlooks the San Pedro River, and the U.S.-Mexico frontier south of Sierra Vista.
Francisco Vazquez de Coronado, a Spanish conquistador, led an armed expedition with more than 2,500 Europeans as well as Mexican-Indian allies through Mexico and the American Southwest to find riches in 1540.
They traveled for two years, reaching as far east and north as Kansas. Along the way, they came into contact with centuries-old Indigenous cultures.
It is still a mystery, even though professional archeologists have been trying to figure it out for over 150 years.
Scholars agree that the expedition followed the Rio Sonora from northern Mexico to the San Pedro River in Arizona.
Seymour believes that her discovery proves that Coronado, along with company, entered Arizona via the Santa Cruz River. Then they headed east.
This puts her in conflict with most researchers.
Bill Hartmann, a Tucson astronomer who has been researching and writing about Coronado for over 20 years, is an accomplished writer. His book, "Searching For Golden Empires", was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2014.
Hartmann stated that it sounds like she is at an exciting location after Seymour's lecture in Tubac. "The main question is whether it contradicts the earlier interpretation of the Coronado Expedition's location. It doesn't change the earlier notions that they reached San Pedro.
Richard Flint, a New Mexico historian, had a similar reaction to Seymour's discovery: excited but skeptical about her conclusions.
Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint Flint, his historian wife are two of the most respected experts on the subject. They have published eight books and numerous academic papers about the subject in their 40-years of research.
Flint stated that "I believe Deni's discoveries are certainly fascinating" and likely indicate the existence of the Coronado Expedition. "I don’t believe that this means that the normal reconstruction of the route heading north must be abandoned. They came up through Rio Sonora, which is strong evidence.
Seymour claimed that she used to like the San Pedro route. However, that was before all the artifacts were discovered in a completely different river valley.
She stated that she visited Santa Cruz County's Santa Cruz County site in July 2020. There, she found many caret-headed nails. "This area is where you will find Coronado."
Since then, she has been finding artifacts in the area with the help metal detectors and a team of up to 18 volunteers including members of the Tohono Odham tribe.
She said, "The site keeps giving and continuing to give."
Over half a mile of area has been searched for relics. It is most likely the remnants of an encampment. But Seymour suspects that it may be more.
She said that "what we have is a name place", and "a place named by the Coronado papers."
Seymour believes that she has discovered the remains of Suya. Also known as San Geronimo III, it is the third and most northern location of a Spanish outpost created to support the expedition.
She said that she had identified six lookout stations around the central structure, where the wall gun was located. Three of these stations show clear evidence of being attacked.
Seymour stated that the Spanish had a "major presence here" and had been involved in major conflicts with natives. "And it's different natives that we thought."
Based on the location of the outpost and the items she found, she believes it was not the Opata who once ruled what is now Sonora, but the Sobaipuri. Their direct descendants include the Tohono O'odham from San Xavier.
The story of their last confrontation is told by clusters of lead shot and Sobaipuri arrowheads.
Seymour said, "We have clear evidence that battle" and has written many academic books and papers on the area and its early inhabitants. "There's no question."
Excavation has so far yielded more that 120 caret-headed nails as well as more than 60 crossbow bolts.
Flint stated that those are the most "diagnostic” artifacts of the Coronado Expedition. Flint also said that the discovery of so many crossbow bolts is a strong indicator of a significant skirmish.
Flint claims that there are many written accounts of members of the expedition which mention Suya and the battle that caused it to be abandoned. He stated that the loss of the outpost had "sort of put a nail in the coffin of Coronado’s journey," because it cut him off his main resupply route and communication route.
It seems that the question of whether or not it qualifies for the title of the first European settlement in America depends on the definition of settlement.
Hartmann said that Suya looked more like a struggling military garrison rather than a small town.
Flint said that it wasn't the first. Coronado had traveled into New Mexico by the time San Geronimo III was founded. He lived for several months in one of the captured pueblos.
Everyone wants to be the first. Flint stated that "This discovery" is important, even though it wasn't the first. "Virtually any information that is discovered about the Coronado Expedition can shed light on something that wasn't known."
Seymour is much more measured. Seymour is far less measured. She believes that this discovery is so significant and so game-changing, it might wind up as a World Heritage Site one day.
She said, "There are many naysayers." "I am an archaeologist. "I just go where there is evidence."
Seymour plans to publish her first of many peer-reviewed papers about her discovery this spring. She stated that she has received radiocarbon dating results, as well as other methods of supporting her findings. More testing is planned.
Seymour stated that she sold tickets to her Tubac public talks and made public her work in order to raise funds for a documentary about her discovery by Tucson-based Frances Causey Films.
She said, "As archaeologists we get to see and experience the coolest stuff" and can travel to places that others cannot. "(The documentary is important to allow people to see and understand the discovery process."
Although the film had raised just over $8,400 so far, the crowdfunding campaign still fell short of the $100,000 goal.
Seymour isn't the only one who has been using the dig site. She has shared photos of artifacts with a number of experts, including the Flints. Additionally, she invited a few other researchers to visit the dig site to check out what she's doing.
She stated that she only takes people she trust to the area, with the condition that they don't reveal the location or take any other person there.
Seymour is aware that the site can't be kept secret forever but she still wants to keep it safe for as long as possible.
She said, "We still have much to do." "I don’t want to compete with treasure hunters."
According to the long-time researcher in Southern Arizona, she also claimed to have discovered Coronado artifacts in two other locations in the San Bernardino Valley about six miles from her main Santa Cruz County site.
These discoveries, she predicts, will ultimately help pinpoint the exact route of Arizona's infamous expedition.
Seymour stated, "We now have an anchor point." "I believe we're going find a lot more Coronado locations."