Sunday, October 31, 2010

Casa Grande

Welcome to Casa Grande! This mysterious structure marks the United States' first archeological preserve, attaining legal protection status in 1892. It was built sometime before 1350 by a group of native Americans known as Hohokam. The Hohokam may be the ancestors of the Pima Indians, as they had explained to a group of missionaries led by Father Eusebio Kino in 1694 that their ancestors were “ho-ho-KAHM,” which means “all gone” or “all used up” in their language.

Casa Grande, or “big house,” is located in Coolidge, Arizona, south of Phoenix, and near the Gila River. The mystery of the big house is its purpose. It may have been the residence of the tribe leader, but there is obviously more to it than that. Each wall is set according to the four cardinal directions. There is a circular hole in the upper west wall that aligns with the setting sun on the day of the summer solstice, and other such openings align with the sun or the moon at other significant times throughout the year.

This attention to the earthly calendar fits well with the consideration that the Hohokam were an agricultural community. Keeping note of the timing of the seasons would help such a community thrive. Their ingenuity was not solely limited to astrology though, as they also developed a canal irrigation system to water their crops and refresh themselves.

The building itself is constructed of a wooden frame made from hundreds pieces of juniper, pine, and fir trees. That is remarkable, because those types of trees are located about 60 miles away! A hard earthen cement made of sand, clay, and calcium carbonate, called caliche, was then applied to the frame up to 4 feet thick at the base, tapering thinner as you work towards the top of the structure.

These ancient people made many decorative petroglyphs in stones like this one. They had irrigation and art. This was one happening desert settlement!

This was my favorite petroglyph! I mean, what is it? A floppy-tailed goat? A fat cat with long ears? A mangled ant with no abdomen? It could even be an accurate sketch of an extinct animal! Whatever it is, I liked it.

Well, that's it for me for here. I know, it was a short visit. But life is like that sometimes. You've got to cherish the little time you have. Until next time...