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of Phoenix, near Coolidge, is the Casa Grande site (one mile north
of Coolidge on Hwy 87). These freestanding adobe structures are
a testimonial to the engineering skill of the Hohokam who built
them nearly 600 years ago. The central structure is multi-storied,
protected from the elements by a modern steel-frame ramada, erected
in 1932. The 600 roof beams found at the site originated in mountain
forests of ponderosa pine, juniper and other woods and must have
been transported over 50 miles to this flat, barren locale. Casa
Grande also contains one of the best preserved of Arizona's more
than 200 prehistoric ball courts.
is some speculation that Casa Grande may have functioned as an
astronomical observatory. The third story walls of the multi-floored
structure have holes and windows that align with the equinoxial
sunrises, summer solsticial sunsets and some lunar observations.
first European to see Casa Grande was the Jesuit missionary, Fr.
Eusebio Francisco Kino, on 27 November 1694; it subsequently became
a landmark for desert travelers. In the late 19th Century the
Southern Pacific Railroad increased the volume of visitors and
by 1918 Casa Grande became a national monument. The site includes
an interpretive museum and botanical garden.
culture represents an amalgam of Anasazi and Mogollon cultures.
It originated in north-central Arizona along the Little Colorado
River and expanded south (ca. AD 1100) to the Gila and Salt River
basins ("Salado" is Spanish for "salty"). The Salado were irrigation
farmers and hunter-gatherers; they produced pottery and cotton
textiles. For unknown reasons in ca. AD 1200, they began to move
their pueblos to cliff sides such as the Tonto site. Like the
Hohokam, this culture also faded from the archaeological record
in about AD 1450. The construction of the Roosevelt Dam in 1911
flooded much of the remains of the Salado, leaving them something
of an enigma.
90 miles east of Phoenix, in a park-like area of Globe, Arizona,
are the Salado ruins of Besh-Ba-Gowah, a site of some 200 rooms
in structures dating to ca. AD 1200-1400. The pueblo's construction
is primarily river cobbles and adobe and has been restored to
constitute an open-air museum of great interest: not merely vacant
rooms, but pottery and other artifacts of this ancient agricultural
30 miles northwest of Globe, near Roosevelt, Arizona, lies the
Tonto site, a cliff dwelling reminiscent of Gila, Mesa Verde,
Betatakin or Keet Seel. The Salado occupants of Tonto, possibly
motivated by warfare, moved to this cliff site in about AD 1250.
The site consists of three units: Upper Ruin, Lower Ruin and Lower
Ruin Annex. The latter originally consisted of about twelve rooms,
but has been mostly destroyed by weather. The Lower Ruin sits
in a natural cave or overhang about 50 feet deep, 40 feet high
and 85 feet long, and consisted of about 30 rooms; with the Annex,
this multi-storied warren of rooms housed about 50 people. They
tilled fields 1000 feet below the ruins and 2-5 miles distant.
visitors' center contains some interpretive displays and the desert
flora along the trail to the ruins are marked with explanatory
signs, rendering the site as interesting for amateur botanists
as it is for archaeological aficionados.
with small, sturdy vehicles and who enjoy white-knuckle driving
might take the Apache Trail (AZ Hwy 88) between Tonto and Apache
Junction. This narrow, largely unpaved route winds through Apache
Canyon and offers some spectacular views, though not much room
to stop for photographs.
this brief survey has whetted your appetite for more, read "Ancient
Ruins of the Southwest - An Archaeological Guide" by David Grant
Noble. This is an excellent book for anyone wishing to explore
the multitude of archaeological treasures of the American Southwest.