After being involved in softball or line dancing for 8 of the last 11 days we decided to head out this morning to see some sights. We’ve sure had a different experience down here this year, but we really are enjoying everything we’ve had on our plate this time.
The first stop was in Coolidge at the Casa Grande Ruins. This is the remnants of a 4 story structure built by the Hohokam residents of the area in the 1300’s. They don’t know the actual name of the building since the Hohokam had no written language, and they disappeared as a community before the 1500’s. The arrival of the Spaniards eventually named it the place ‘Great House’. They have found few artifacts in the building itself, and what they have found hasn’t provided many clues to the purpose of the site. The speculation is that it was a community gathering place or a spiritual centre. There are vents in the rear of the building that are lined up with the lunar and solar cycles so the spiritual purposes seem to be the most valid guesses. A protective roof was built in the 1930’s to protect the site from deterioration.
The Casa Grande ruins are located in a large rectangular compound and takes up less than 5% of the area of the compound. Within the rectangle are several residences and an area that the guide referred to as a 14th century version of a shopping mall. The Hohokam were an agricultural and trading society, and developed a series of canals to bring water several miles from the Gila River to the desert where they lived. This irrigation was quite successful and gave the Hohokam the ability to grow plenty of produce for use and to trade with the surrounding tribes. In the area of the mall they have found artifacts that were probably received as trade varying from Pacific seashells to Amazon Macaw skeletons and feathers.
The ruins are located among a large grouping of similar sized compounds from the time of the Hohokam, but most of the area has been left undisturbed, or else excavated and then covered up again. One area included a ball court for some sort of a ball game which probably was a winner take all type of game. In other words, if you lost you were sacrificed to the local deities.
We spent a couple of hours wandering around the site and stopped for lunch in the attached picnic area. As the desert has been disturbed for the various excavations over the years the soil is somewhat softer than the surrounding hardpan. This has made for an ideal situation for the local rodent, the Round Tailed Squirrel. We were entertained by several of them while we ate our lunch. The interesting thing is where there are lots of squirrels there are usually lots of rattlesnakes who are their main predator. Thank goodness Sylvia didn’t see any…or me for that matter.
The next stop was in the city of Casa Grande where we visited the local museum. It was quite a good, albeit small museum, with areas devoted to the usual western and agricultural heritage of Arizona as well as displays showing the small schoolhouse set aside for the black population which migrated to the area to pick cotton in the 1930’s. Many of the students became very prominent people in the ongoing history of the Phoenix area.
After a leisurely drive back through the hills in the area we arrived back at the trailer in enough time to catch another great sunset. As my buddy Croft says, ‘Life is Good’.