Arizona is considered to be the state rich in archaeological heritage. The area
boasts plenty of sites where everyone can learn about Arizona's earliest inhabitants.
There are a number of parks and monuments with ruins or cliff dwellings, artifacts
and exhibits. Canyon de Chelly, Casa Grande, Montezuma Castle, Tonto National
Monument, Tuzigoot, Walnut Canyon, and Wupatki National Monument are only
some of the sites worth visiting. Petroglyph sites are Painted Rocks State Park and
Deer Valley Rock Art Center.
In New River, Cave Creek, or Black Canyon City, Indian ruins and archaeological
sites can be found even near homes. Locals claimed finding arrowheads and
potsherds in their own backyards. This area used to be a transition zone between
the lower and upper deserts, with the inhabitants belonging to Hohokam culture.
Hohokam Indians started settling this area since 600-800 AD (the time of the
Vikings) through the beginning of the Middle Ages. Hohokams inhabited the
territory along the Agua Fria River until approximately 1450 AD but abandoned
this area entirely by around 1450 AD.
Along the banks of the Agua Fria River and the New River the Indians grew agave,
cotton and corn. Numerous farming fields were located along Skunk Creek as well
as throughout the region. The Hohokams built extensive dam and terrace systems
to utilize rainwater. In addition to gathering plants the local tribes hunted deer,
rabbit, and bighorn sheep.
Outcroppings of basalt, rhyolite, and slate/shale served as building materials and
were used for making tools, although stone was also widely used for construction
purposes. The archeologists found a lot of hilltop rock structures but it is not clear
but whether they were used as forts, retreats, or habitations. Some of them seem to
have been built for defensive purposes, while others were occupied at least for a
In the late 1960's Prescott College started surveying the area at the southwest
corner of the Tonto National Forest by helicopter, and since 1971 extensive ground
surveys and excavations has been carried out. The archeological sites found feature
structures that formed rooms, plazas, water control/field systems, terraces. The
rock borders and petroglyphs have also been found.
Those interested in the history of Arizona should visit Agua Fria National
Monument. Sprawled across 71,100 acres Agua Fria National Monument boasts
some of the largest prehistoric ruins in the Southwest. The monument includes
Perry Mesa and Black Mesa, along with the public land to the north of these mesas,
and the Agua Fria River canyon. This area has at least 450 archaeological sites,
including rock pueblos and intact petroglyph sites with rock art symbols etched on
boulders and cliffs. The monument also features historic sites that date back to the
early Anglo-American history, including the remnants of Basque sheep camps, old
mining and military sites. In addition to being a valuable record of human history,
the monument is also home to rich vegetative systems and abundant wildlife.
Another remarkable site worth visiting is Cave Creek Museum known for its
unique exhibit on local Native Americans that contains artifacts from the
Hohokam, Yavapai, and Apache Indians. There is a gift shop on site.
For a glimpse into the history of rock art visit the Deer Valley Rock Art Center
committed to preserving and providing public access to the Hedgpeth Hills
petroglyph site. Arizona Archaeological Society
To peak an interest in archeology and facilitate the research in this field the
Arizona Archaeological Society was founded in 1964. This organization fosters
better public understanding and concern for the preserving of archaeological and
cultural artifacts. It is also committed to protecting rare archaeological sites and
resources. The society conducts classes, seminars and field schools to educate
about archaeology. Anyone starting age 12 and up, is welcomed to attend their free
monthly meetings on the prehistory of Arizona and the Southwest.