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“Early Accounts of Turquoise Use by Native Americans”

Southwest Crossroads Spotlight

The Spanish were familiar with turquoise because it appeared in ancient Egyptian and Persian jewelry as well as in the Middle East. In the 1540s Fray Marcos de Niza, Pedro de Castañeda, and Francisco Vázquez de Coronado chronicled encounters with Zunis who wore turquoise ornaments and used inlaid turquoise in their doorways.

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“He [Esteban] arrived there laden with a large number of turquoises and with some pretty women.”

“In this pueblo they were all bedecked with turquoises, which hung from their noses and ears and which they call cacona.…The three days being over, many people gathered to go with me. I selected thirty prominent men, all very well dressed, wearing turquoise necklaces, some with five and six loops.…So Esteban continued on his journey until he came to the city of Cíbola. Here he was met by people who refused to allow him to enter the city and who put him in a large house located outside of it, taking away from him everything he carried to trade, turquoises and other things he had obtained from the Indians along the way.”
Fray Marcos de Niza 

“I say, then, that when the negro Esteban reached Cíbola, he arrived there laden with Navajo Silver and Turquoise Buckle“Navajo Silver and Turquoise Buckle,” Unidentified Navajo Artist (Artist) a large number of turquoises and with some pretty women, which the natives had given him.…So they went to him, and because, after some talk, he asked them for turquoises and women, they considered this an affront and determined to kill him. So they did, without killing any one of those who came with him.”
Pedro de Castañeda

“They are all well built and comely. I think that they have a quantity of turquoises, which they had removed with the rest of their goods, except the maize, because, when I arrived, I did not find any women here nor any men under fifteen years or over sixty, except two or three old men who remained in command of all the other young men and the warriors.”
Francisco Vázquez de Coronado