Ghost of a Dream
I've been aware of this set of anonymous ruins near Old Fort Apache for some time. Needing to "stretch the legs" of one of my vehicles, we decided to make a Saturday morning trek to the Forks of the White River to investigate these ruins. Look for the signage "Kinishba Ruins" along Hwy 73 and turn onto the dirt road heading north towards the ruins. We were prepared to hike in to the ruins at this point, but noting that the dirt road had just been graded, we thought we'd give it a shot in our extremely low clearance vehicle. With only a couple of "Oh !@*&!!", we traveled the 1.9 miles to the trail head without damage.
Hiking Kinishba Ruins Trail
As you pass through the barbed-wire fence surrounding the site, there is a foot path leading to the ruins. You become very much aware of the immense size of the pueblo ruins as you get closer. When you reach the first wall, poke your head inside one of the many rooms. From the southern side of the ruins site, we continue investigating moving clock-wise around the perimeter. We find main floor beams propped up against the wall and wonder if these are original or added during the obvious restoration efforts? As we circle around to the west side of the site, there is a central walkway between pueblos. Down the walkway you have close-up views of several collapsed rooms.
On the north side, erosion from a wash is threatening to swallow up some of the walls. We notice a square kiva near the center of the ruins site towards the east side. Intricate inlay stones within the main brick work can be found throughout the site. Some trees have pushed up and through the ruins. Continuing to the east, we look back at the ruins site and notice many overgrown mounds with obvious pot shards poking through the dirt. These appear to be either an unexcavated section of the ruins or a series of trash mounds.
Further to the east are ruins from the modern era. I'm somewhat dumb-founded seeing this on an ancient Indian ruins site... why are they here?
The mystery of the modern era ruins was soon unraveled when I did a little research from the home office. The home library provided the first clues. Excerpts from a couple of my Southwest Ruins books; Like so many important archaeological sites in the Southwest, Kinishba was first reported in the early 1880's by the anthropological explorer and scholar, Adolph F. Bandelier. Half a century later, after much pot hunting activity at the site by soldiers from nearby Fort Apache, a large portion of Kinishba was excavated and restored by a crew of University of Arizona students and Apache Indians under the supervision of Dr. Byron Cummings. Much of the original pueblo, however, never having experienced the archaeologist's shovel or trowel, is still seen today as overgrown mounds.
Cummings selected Kinishba for excavation because it represented in his words, "the highest development of the Pueblo culture". These villagers were farmers who utilized arable lands sloping southeast to the White River for the cultivation of corn, beans, and squash. Tree-ring samples date the site form the mid-eleventh through mid-fourteenth centuries, a period when Anasazi culture was vigorous and expansive. A wealth of artifacts collected during nine summers of field work bear witness to the highly developed craft skills of these people.
Kinishba was a large masonry pueblo consisting of several substantial community houses. One was the focus of the 1930's project. The pueblo was constructed on top of an older was constructed on top of an older collapsed village, and an even older Basketmaker occupation in the area is evidenced by the presence of numerous pithouse sites. Prehistoric southwestern peoples has a propensity for reoccupying previously inhabited sites, often building new homes on top of older structures. Kinishba roomblocks were well built and compact. The excavated wing had over two hundred rooms, and the entire pueblo is believed to have held a population of fifteen hundred to two thousand people. Cummings was of the opinion that this large, productive, long-lived village must have had strong social organization and effective leadership.
At the end of Cumming's scientific investigations at Kinishba, he built a research and exhibition complex that he envisioned becoming the core of a model educational park. He hoped that in time professional and lay people would come here to tour the ruins, relax under shade trees in a park, view Kinishba art and artifacts in a modern museum, and enjoy a contemporary Native American craft center. World War II, however, shifted funding priorities away from projects like this and public interest drifted away from Cumming's scheme. Today, Kinishba is fenced off, deteriorating, barely known to the public, and visited by few. To the serious archaeology student, however, it represents an important example of western Pueblo culture and is far from forgotten.
A "Google-search" under Dr. Byron Cummings uncovers the remaining clues including rare photos from the 1930's showing the extent of the restoration efforts. I discover that Cummings lobbied continuously until his death in 1954 to have Kinishba named a National Monument similar to Wupatki Ruins. I've pieced together a series of "THEN" and "NOW" photos:
a) Kinishba Pueblo reconstruction circa 1933-1939.
b) Remains of the reconstructed pueblo circa 2006.
c) Another view of Kinishba Pueblo reconstruction circa 1933-1939.
d) Another view of the remains of the reconstructed pueblo circa 2006.
e) Arial view of Kinishba site circa 1935.
f) Panoramic view of Kinishba site circa 2006.
g) Dr. Byron Cummings (standing on right) in doorway of Kinishba Museum circa 1939.
h) Kinishba Museum doorway circa 2006.
i) Kinishba Museum circa 1933-1939.
j) Kinishba Museum circa 2006.
k) Another view of Kinishba Museum circa 1933-1939.
i) Another view of Kinishba Museum circa 2006.
Also discovered a book just published in January 2006 about Dr. Cummings. Note the photo of Kinishba Pueblo at the top of the cover. Will have to add this to my "must read" list!
This anonymous set of ruins offers a double-shot of history. The Kinishba site is thought to represent the zenith of western Pueblo culture prior to its abandonment around 1350. The excavation and restoration efforts led by Dr. Byron Cummings in the 1930's and their re-abandonment around 1939 shows how quickly ancient ruins can deteriorate in a scant 67 years. "Ghost of a Dream" I call it - just can't wait to get my copy of Bostwick's book on Dr. Cummings. Enjoy!
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.