Historical Reprints History Aboriginal Remains In Verde Valley, Arizona

Aboriginal Remains In Verde Valley, Arizona

Aboriginal Remains In Verde Valley, Arizona
Catalog # SKU1918
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Cosmos Mindeleff
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


Aboriginal Remains
In Verde Valley, Arizona

Cosmos Mindeleff

The region described in the following pages comprises the valley of the Rio Verde, in Arizona, from Verde, in eastern central Yavapai county, to the confluence with Salt river, in Maricopa county.

From the Introduction

The written history of the region treated extends back only a few years. Since the aboriginal inhabitants abandoned it, or were driven from it, the hostile Apache and Walapai roamed over it without hindrance or opposition, and so late as twenty-five years ago, when the modern settlement of the region commenced, ordinary pursuits were almost impossible. Some of the pioneer settlers are still in possession, and are occupying the ground they took up at the time when the rifle was more necessary for successful agriculture than the plow.

The first notice of this region is derived from the report of Espejo, who visited some "mines" north and east of the present site of Prescott early in 1583; in 1598 Farfan and Quesada of Onate's expedition visited probably the same locality from Tusayan, and in 1604 Onate crossed the country a little way north of the present Prescott, in one of his journeys in search of mineral wealth. Nothing seems to have come of these expeditions, however, and the remoteness of the region from the highways of travel and its rough and forbidding character caused it to remain unknown for over two centuries. It was not until the active prospecting for gold and silver accompanying the American invasion and conquest began that the country again became known.

Valuable mines were discovered east and south of the site of Prescott, some of them as early as 1836; but it was not until after 1860 that any considerable amount of work was done, and the mining development of this region, now one of the best known in Arizona, may be said to date from about 1865. Camp Verde was first established in 1861, at a point on the northern side of Beaver creek, but was not regularly occupied until 1866. In 1871 it was removed to its present location, about a mile south of the previous site. It was abandoned as a military post in 1891, and gradually lost the military element of the name.

Concerning the archeologic remains of the Rio Verde valley almost nothing is known. In the early history of Arizona the Verde was known as Rio San Francisco, and vague rumors of large and important ruins were current among trappers and prospectors. The Pacific railway reports, published in 1856, mention these ruins on the authority of the guide to Lieut. Whipple's party, Leroux by name. Other notices are found here and there in various books of exploration and travel published during the next two decades, but no systematic examination of the region was made and the accounts are hardly more than a mention. In 1878 Dr. W. J. Hoffman, at that time connected with the Hayden Survey, published descriptions of the so-called Montezuma well and of a large cliff ruin on Beaver creek, the latter accompanied by an illustration. The descriptions are slight and do not touch the region herein discussed.

The remains in the valley of Rio Verde derive an additional interest from their position in the ancient pueblo region. On the one hand they are near the southwestern limit of that region, and on the other hand they occupy an intermediate position between the ruins of the Gila and Salt river valleys and those of the northern districts. The limits of the ancient pueblo region have not yet been defined, and the accompanying map (plate X) is only preliminary. It illustrates the limited extent of our knowledge of the ancient pueblo region as well as the distribution of ruins within that region, so far as they are known; and the exceptional abundance of ruins noted on certain portions of the map means only that those parts are better known than others. Notwithstanding its incompleteness, it is the best available and is published in the hope that it will serve as a nucleus to which further data may be added until a complete map is produced.

The ruins in the Gila valley, including those along Salt river, are less known than those farther northward, but we know that there is a marked difference between the type exemplified by the well-known Casa Grande, near Florence, Arizona, and that of which the best specimens (notably the Chaco ruins) are found in the San Juan basin. This difference may be due only to a different environment, necessitating a change in material employed and consequent on this a change in methods, although it seems to the writer that the difference is perhaps too great to be accounted for in this way.

Be the cause what it may, there is no doubt that there is a difference; and it is reasonable to expect that in the regions lying between the southern earth-constructed and the northern stone structures, intermediate types might be found which would connect them. The valley of Rio Verde occupies such an intermediate position geographically, but the architectural remains found in it belong to the northern type; so we must look elsewhere for connecting links. The most important ruin in the lower Verde region occurs near its southern end, and more distinctly resembles the northern ruins than the ruins in the northern part of that region.


Ruins of villages built of stone, either roughly dressed or merely selected, represent the highest degree of art in architecture attained by the aborigines of Verde valley, and the best example of this class of ruin is found on the eastern side of the river, about a mile above the mouth of Limestone creek. The site was selected without reference to defense, and is overlooked by the hills which circumscribe a large semicircular area of bottom land, on the northern end of which the village was located.

This is the largest ruin on the Verde; it covers an area of about 450 feet square, or over 5 acres, and has some 225 rooms on the ground plan. From the amount of debris we may infer that most of the rooms were but one story in height; and a reasonable estimate of the total number of rooms in the village when it was occupied would make the number not greater than 300 rooms. The ratio of rooms to inhabitants in the present pueblos would give a population for this village of about 450 persons. Zuni, the largest inhabited pueblo, covering an area of about 5 acres, has a population of 1,600.

It will thus be seen that, while the area covered by this village was quite large, the population was comparatively small; in other words, the dense clustering and so-called beehive structure which characterize Zuni and Taos, and are seen to a less extent in Oraibi, and which result from long-continued pressure of hostile tribes upon a village occupying a site not in itself easily defensible, has not been carried to such an extent here as in the examples cited. But it is also apparent that this village represents the beginning of the process which in time produces a village like Zuni or Taos.

It will be observed that this plan is remarkably similar in general characters to the ground plan of Zuni. A close inspection will reveal the presence of many discrepancies in the plan, which suggest that the village received at various times additions to its population in considerable numbers, and was not the result of the gradual growth of one settlement nor the home of a large group coming en masse to this locality. It has been shown that in the old provinces of Tusayan and Cibola (Moki and Zuni) the present villages are the result of the aggregation of many related gentes and subgentes, who reached their present location at different times and from different directions, and this seems to be the almost universal rule for the larger pueblos and ruins. It should be noted in this connection, however, that, the preceding statements being granted, a general plan of this character indicates an essentially modern origin or foundation.

The ground plan shows a number of courts or open spaces, which divided the village into four well-defined clusters. The largest court was nearly in the center of the village, and within it (as shown, on the plan) there are traces of a small single-room structure that may have been a kiva of sacred chamber. Attached to this main court and extending eastward is another court of considerable size, and connected with this second court at its eastern end there is another one almost square in plan and of fair size. West of the main court may be seen a small court opening into it, and north of this another square space separated from the main court by a single stone wall and inclosed on the other three sides by rooms. In addition to these there are two completely inclosed small courts in the center of the southwestern cluster, and another one of moderate size between the southwestern and southern clusters.

The arrangement of these courts is highly suggestive. The central space was evidently the main court of the village at the time of its greatest development, and it is equally evident that it was inclosed at a later period than the small inclosed courts immediately adjacent to it, for had the latter not preceded it they would not occupy the positions they now do. Plate XIII represents a part of the main court, and beyond the dèbris can be seen a small portion of the bottom upon which the village is built.

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