Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sinagua Sunwatchers

Cousin Raina and Jesse were Tour Guides for the Day, and we began our adventure with a stop at the V-Bar-V Heritage Site, north of Camp Verde, AZ, 2.8 miles east of the junction of I-17 and SR179 (FR 618).

It is the petroglyphs (drawings that are scratched into the rock surface) that draw visitors to the V-Bar-V Site. Although archeologists have known about the petroglyphs since 1945 when Albert Schroeder reported them, it was not until the U.S. Forest Service obtained the land in 1994 that an intense study began.

On the basis of projectile points found in the Verde Valley, archeologists date the earliest inhabitants back 2000 to 10,000 years ago. But it is the people known as the Sinagua who developed a dynamic culture between 800 to 1400 A.D. and produced about 1,035 petroglyphs on four main panels in the faces of the sandstone bluff. It is the Solar Panel (above), the shadow stones, and its 125 petroglyphs that have received the most interest.

This panel lies almost in a true north direction and shortly after 1:00 pm daily the shadows cast by the two shadow stones [two boulders (left) protruding from the cliff] cast shadows that were used to establish a calendar. Only 11 images have been interpreted. Some relate to in marking the calendar.

Seven sets of concentric circles (four are shown here in the upper third of the panel along with a portion of a fifth) were drawn to mark the Vernal Equinox, Summer Solstice, Autumnal Equinox, and Winter Solstice. (Double click the photo to see an enlarged image.) It was the Vernal Equinox (March 21) when we visited the Site--about two hours early to observe the shadows cast marking that position of the sun touching the left-most concentric circle. But we had to press on.

Other images include: 1) the falling spiral (upper left in photo on the left; upper right in the next photo; and upper right in second photo below) is believed to relate to the three times for corn planting,

2) the two quadraped images (center, top in photo on the left and close-up in the photo below) may be a symbol of the Water Clan which produced the official sun watchers, and 3) the two centipede-like symbols (center and right in the lower third) may represent corn.

This figure may represent the impression of what a shaman experienced as a result of either self-hypnosis or a chemically-induced altered state.

Our docent (expert guide) was very knowledgeable and answered all questions with detailed information. He was also the person who introduced Kenneth Zoll to these petroglyphs, and Zoll went on to write Sinagua Sunwatchers.

Our two tour guides then drove us to the Palatki Red Cliffs Heritage Site near Cottonwood. As we approached the Site, we passed scenes shown here.

On the trail headed to the pictographs.

Some of the images on the walls represent human occupation some 12,000 years ago. The Sinagua pictographs (drawings made on rock) shown here date from 600 to 1300 A.D. These images appear on the walls of a fire pit. It is believed that the images are black because as the fire heated the original image, the animal fat used as a binder in the paint, burned or retained the soot and turned the white images black.

This space was occupied by Charles Willard from 1923 – 1925. He had moved to this area at age 65, following the death of his wife, and lived in this protected area in the cliff while building a home and several other buildings at the base of the cliff. He planted over 5000 fruit trees in the field that the Sinagua people planted corn, squash, beans, and cotton. He died in 1957 at age 99.

We concluded our day’s adventure with stops (noted in earlier blogs) in Jerome, AZ, and the Rock Springs CafĂ© near Black Canyon, AZ, for some fabulous pie. Kudos to Raina and Jesse for an educational, fun tour.

NOTE: This entry was delayed due to problems with the park’s WiFi signal. Our air card will not work and we are not able to use our cell phone.

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