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Another Cave Creek Canyon Ruin Hunt, AZ
mini location map2012-12-12
18 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Another Cave Creek Canyon Ruin Hunt, AZ 
Another Cave Creek Canyon Ruin Hunt, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 12 2012
Hiking12.00 Miles
Hiking12.00 Miles   8 Hrs      1.50 mph
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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My son-in-law and I went on a day long hike in Cave Creek Canyon to find the site of a Hohokam pueblo type ruin. This ruin is not well known to the public but is mentioned in an archaeology report. This would make the 13th Hohokam ruin I have visited in the area between the Spur Cross parking lot and the 6L Ranch site. The archaeology report hypothesizes that the canyon area could not have supported (food wise) the number of people living there and that they must have gotten their main food supplies from large agricultural fields found where Cave Creek leaves the canyon and enters a flat plain area. It further hypothesizes that these people made their main residence up in the canyon and stayed in temporary housing at the field sites only while working there. The reason given for living in the canyon was that it was close to perennial water sources and was also more defensible. An interesting hypothesis since it is at least 10 miles from the field locations to the most distant pueblo sites. I emphasise "hypothesis" here because archaeologists often disagree on conclusions found from the same data and later more in-depth studies which I have not seen may have come to different conclusions. There is even some discussion on whether the Cave Creek indians were more related to Salado, Perry Mesa or Tonto Basin cultures than Hohokam.

Our destination was a pueblo style habitation on a high bench overlooking the canyon below. According to the archaeology report it was entirely enclosed by a wall and had as many as 60 rooms. The time period was estimated at around 1200 AD based on pottery identification. With the help of the report I was able to find what appeared to be this site on Google Earth which made it easy to find on this day and saved many hours of searching on foot. (Although it did involve many hours of research on the internet) After a few hours of hiking we were closing within 100 yds of our destination when we started seeing pottery sherds littering the ground. There was a slightly recessed area in the bench top with unusually deep top soil which may have enabled local garden sites near the compound. Also nearby was an inexhaustible supply of rocks for wall building. After some delay to find and photograph pottery sherds we went to the ruin site. I started by walking the entire circumference of the visible perimeter wall. I later loaded this gps track on to Google Earth and it perfectly overlayed the outline of what I had thought was the perimeter wall visible on GE. The wall was a rectangle with rounded corners approximately 100 yds long by 50 yds wide. The views up and down the canyon from this site are awsome. What amazes me is that the site is a mile as the crow flies and considerable elevation gain from the nearest current day perennial spring in Cave Creek. (Cave Creek was dry on this day in this area except for the spring.) There are at least 8 habitation ruins I know of that are within a 1 mile radius of this site. I have read speculation that there was heavier rainfall during the time period of these ruins and that Cave Creek had a perennial flow at that time. There are scientific ways of confirming this using tree ring methods and other means but in my very limited reading and research I have not come across any reports.

There were many rock walls enclosing rooms within the perimeter wall. However I think the room count might be closer to 30 than the reported 60. The rooms were at some distance (20-30 ft) from the eastern periphery wall along its entire 100 yd length. This would have made a nice courtyard for accessing the rooms. The walls were all tumbled down with a maximum height of 3 ft which is normal for ruins in this area. The rock walls are covered with bushes which preferentially grow in the rock piles probably because the rocks help retain moisture in the ground. This usually makes it difficult to find these ruins but in this case the geometric pattern of the bushes visible on GE actually helped to find it. The rocks near the bottom of the wall are closely fitted and appear to have either been very carefully selected for their rectangular brick-like shape or may have even been cut (chisled) into shape. Many of these fitted rocks were of a material (limestone?) that appeared softer and more easily cut than rocks higher on the walls. One interesting find was a number of large flat pieces of slate in many of the "rooms". A couple of these were approximately 30 inches long and most were a dark grayish-green color but one was very light colored - almost white. These must have been carried some distance to this site since I've seen nothing like this in the area. Another interesting find was a piece of white sea shell. The pottery sherds appeared to be of two different types consistent with the archeology report. One type tends to be of uniform color from the exterior to interior surface with temper material (granular sand like material added to the clay) visible as light and dark colored speckles on the surface. My knowledge of Indian pottery is almost non-existent but I think this is the type referred to as Wingfield Plain in the report. The other dominant type had a reddish brown outer surface which had been applied to the outside while the inner surface was blackened or the same color (grey) as the internal material. Some of these had the look of being polished on the exterior surface. This type also had a more finished appearance than the Wingfield with thinner walls and squared opening lips. This type may be the Gila redware referred to in the report. No sherds were found with decorative multicolored patterns on the surface. The Wingfield type is thought to have been made locally while the Gila redware was brought in through trading.

After exploring the ruins we headed up hill to the next bench where there was supposed to be a site with "petroglyphs in profusion". On the way we discovered a 40x40 ft square wall by itself overlooking a shallow ravine about 0.2 miles north east of the pueblo compound. There was a petroglyph on a nearby boulder that looked a lot like the space alien "ET" with 6 fingers on each hand. We would later find an almost identical petroglyph on a boulder directly across the ravine. Could this small bowl shaped ravine been the landing site of an extraterrestrial space craft? ;) After reaching the top of the next bench we only found a few petroglyphs after a fairly exhaustive search. There was a point protruding from the canyon wall high above this bench that looked to me like a good site for a fort/lookout type of ruin. After a somewhat difficult climb up a steep boulder field we found a small walled enclosure about 10 ft in diameter with 4 ft high walls. Two pairs of "ET" like petroglyh figures were found on the exterior of this rock wall but these figures only had three fingers and three toes. The "lookout" had a commanding few of all 8 of the known (to me) ruin locations in this area. There is always some discussion in the literature I've read on whether these hilltop ruins are defensive, lookout or ceremonial in purpose. This one was obviously too small to be defensive or ceremonial so I'm guessing it was a lookout or maybe a lovers' hideaway which might explain the figure pairs in the petroglyphs.

Although I could have spent many more hours exploring this area we finally had to leave to make it back to our car before sundown. On the way back we encountered a hiker on one of the main trails. He was on a business trip from Colorado and was hiking here to get some exercise with no map but a gps to make sure he could backtrack to his car and keep track of mileage. I mentioned he might want to take a look at the hikearizona site to get trail info and gps tracks for future hikes and he said actually he had used the site to find the Spur Cross area. We made good time back to the car and got there in time to see a beautiful sunset on the drive home.
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