Arizona’s Ancient Ruins

casa grande 1902

Casa Grande Ruins about 1902

In 1871, a document titled “Resources of Arizona Territory with a Description of the Indian Tribes; Ancient Ruins, Cochise, Apache Chief; Antonio, Pima Chief; Stage and Wagon Roads; Trade and Commerce, Etc.” was published by the authority of the Legislature.  In a section titled “Indians of Arizona,” it tells us the following:

This territory is covered with ancient ruins which prove conclusively it was once densely populated by a people far in advance, in point of civilization, to most of the Indian tribes.  There is no written record of them, and it is only a matter of conjecture who and what they were.  Occasionally a deserted house is found sufficiently well preserved to ascertain the character of the architecture.  The walls of the Casa Grande, situated on the Gila, near Sanford, are still two stories above the ground.  In size, the structure is about 30 by 60 feet, the walls are thick and made of mud, which was evidently confined and dried as it was built.  It is divided into many small rooms, and the partitions are also made of mud.  The floors were made by placing sticks close together and covering them with cement.  Around and near the Casa Grande are the ruins of many other buildings, but by the lapse of time the decay of vegetation has formed earth and nearly covered them, and all that now marks the place where once a stately mansion stood is the elevation of the ground.

Near the Ancha Mountains are ruins not so extensive, but in far better preservation than the Casa Grande, and near these ruins are old arastras, for the reduction of silver ores, which indicate that this old people were not unmindful of the root of all evil.  On the Verde River are immense rooms dug in from the side of high perpendicular sandstone banks that can only be reached with ladders.

Very little information is obtained by excavating these ruins.  Pottery of an excellent quality and ornamented with paints is found everywhere and occasionally a stone axe is unearthed, but nothing to indicate that they were a warlike people; on the contrary, scarcely an implement of defense can be found, though there are reasons to believe, from the numerous lookouts or places for observation to be seen on the tops of hills and mountains, and the construction of their houses, that they had enemies, and that they were constantly on the alert to avoid surprise; and also that by the hands of these enemies they perished.  It is not improbable that the Apaches were the enemies who caused their destruction.  Indeed, the Apaches have a legend that such is the case, and I believe the time will come when they will be able to exterminate or drive us from the country.  When we consider that they have fought all other Indian tribes, and have so far successfully resisted the military power of Spain, Mexico and the United States, this does not seem like a very unreasonable anticipation.  The ruins of towns, farms and irrigating canals that are to be seen on every hand over this vast territory give abundant proof that this country was once densely inhabited and that the people who lived here maintained themselves by cultivating the soil, and that is probably about all we shall ever know of them.  Many hieroglyphics are to be seen on rocks in different portions of the territory, but who made them, or what they mean, no one knows.

In excavating a well between Tucson and the Gila, at the depth of 150 feet, pottery and other articles, the same as are found in the vicinity of ruins, were taken out.

Note:  Today, the Casa Grande ruins is a National Monument.

casa grande 1889

Casa Grande Ruins – 1889

Note:  These ruins were built by the Ancient Sonoran Desert People.

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Anasazi, Apache. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Arizona’s Ancient Ruins

  1. NoraP says:

    This was a very interesting article. I spent time in this area when I worked for GE.

  2. Pingback: Arizona's Ancient Ruins - 500 NATIONS | 500 NATIONS

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