Searching for Golden Empires

Epic Cultural Collisions in Sixteenth-Century America

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This lively book recounts the explorations of the first generations of Spanish conquistadors and their Native allies. Author William K. Hartmann brings readers along as the explorers probe from Cuba to the Aztec capital of Mexico City, and then northward through the borderlands to New Mexico, the Grand Canyon, southern California, and as far as Kansas. Characters include Hernan Cortés, the conqueror; the Aztec ruler Motezuma; Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, a famous expedition leader; fray Marcos de Niza, an explorer-priest doomed to disgrace; and Viceroy Antonio Mendoza, the king’s representative who tried to keep the explorers under control.

Recounting eyewitness experiences that the Spaniards recorded in letters and memoirs, Hartmann describes ancient lifeways from Mexico to the western United States; Aztec accounts of the conquest; discussions between Aztec priests and Spanish priests about the nature of the universe; Cortés’s lifelong relationship with his famous Native mistress, Malinche (not to mention the mysterious fate of his wife); lost explorers who wandered from Florida to Arizona; and Marcos de Niza’s controversial reports of the “Seven Cities of Cíbola.”

Searching for Golden Empires describes how, even after the conquest of Mexico, Cortés remained a “wildcat” competitor with Coronado in a race to see who could find the “next golden empire,” believed to lie in the north. It is an exciting history of the shared story of the United States and Mexico, unveiling episodes both tragic and uplifting.
“This remarkable new study fleshes out both explorers and natives, revealing nearly forgotten fluctuations of power and persuasion. Detailed archaeological evidence and meticulous scholarly investigations make this book especially valuable in academia, but Hartmann’s joyful Indiana Jones–esque attitude will both educate general readers and keep them rapt.”—Publisher’s Weekly

"What an incredible scope and subject!"—Craig Childs, Orion Book Award-winning author of Apocalyptic Planet and The Secret Knowledge of Water

“This book is a must-read for archaeologists, ethnohistorians, historians, and those interested in the skullduggery and the stories behind the stories of the opening years of the Spanish exploration of North America.”—Russell K. Skowronek, co-editor of Beneath the Ivory Tower: The Archaeology of Academia


“This is a thoughtful reexamination of the original data relating to the two Spanish expeditions. Hartmann takes the work of current scholars in the field and adds his own insights.”—Charles R. Ewen, co-author of X Marks the Spot: The Archaeology of Piracy


“Scientist and historian Bill Hartmann has made significant contributions to our understanding of the report of fray Marcos de Niza, the first European to reach the American Southwest. Now he looks at a wider sweep of both time and geography, revealingly linking the events and people of the conquest of Mexico under Hernando Cortés with the journey to Cíbola led almost two decades later by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado.”—Richard Flint, author of No Settlement, No Conquest: A History of the Coronado Entrada
Searching for Golden Empires
384 Pages 6 x 9 Published: 2014 Hardcover (9780816530878)
Paperback (9780816531967)
Ebook (9780816598724)

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