The Big House

While we were in Ohio for the month of October we used the time to do a few minor repairs on our RV. When we had the RV in for service, we were told (and shown) the ignition electrode for our refrigerator was in need of replacement. But it was going to take the shop 3 days just to get the part. They were nice enough to give us the part number and we ordered it online. After looking at YouTube videos on refrigerator repairs, we got the tools out and in 15 minutes, had the part replaced. Yay!
Next up was the wind sensor on our awning. That, too, was a really simple task. Double Yay! Finally, we installed the magnets for our magna shade window shades we ordered earlier in the year. While not fun crawling around on the dashboard of the RV and stretching out as much as possible to get the magnets in place, it was sure satisfying seeing the new magna shade in place. (Pictures of the magna shade will be posted later)

With all these items addressed, it was time to hit the road heading west once more. This time we drove to Phoenix, Arizona. We stayed at the Usery Mountain County Park which was quite pleasant. For our national park visit, we zeroed in on the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. This is a small park, encompassing only one square mile. It contains the remains of a large building and village built by the Ancestral People of the Sonoran Desert or Hohokum culture.

The Hohokum culture is usually broken down into 4 distinct eras. The first was around 300-775 CE (Common Era) and is called the Pioneer Era. The people living in the region between the Salt and Gila Rivers in Arizona were principally farmers. They raised corn, beans, cotton, squash and agave. After the year 300 CE, they started building canals to bring the water from the rivers to their farm plots. They did not have shovels or wheels so the canals were dug by hand using sticks. Think about the work needed to build miles of canals using just your hands and sticks.  They apparently developed trade networks with the Mesoamericas (Mexico) and California as turquoise, parrots, and shells started showing up. Pottery was simple and a brown color.

Next came the transition into the Colonial or Pre-Classical period from 775-975. Growth was the main characteristic of this period. Villages grew in size and number. More canals were built and they added tobacco as a crop. Around 500 miles of canals were in use during this period. Some measured 10 feet deep. Evidence of the growing influence of Mesoamerica is seen in the addition of ball courts to the villages. Pottery was now embellished with an iron-based slip, giving the pieces a red-on-buff look that became their iconic niche.

The Sedentary Period occurred between 975-1150. They developed an etching process in jewelry making, using the juice from the saguaro cactus as an acid base. In fact, jewelry making was at its height with the production of earrings, necklaces, pendants, nose plugs, etc.. Mass production of items began and can be seen in the abundance of pottery and other items produced.

The Classical Period ran from 1150-1450. The villages were at their peak in size and the biggest villages built large houses like the one still standing at Casa Grande. Casa Grande was 4 stories tall and built by hand using 3,000 tons of a caliche adobe to build it. Caliche is a limestone found a few feet underground. This limestone is very abundant and creates a concrete-like mixture when mixed with straw, mud, and water. The walls are 4 feet thick at the base. Hundreds of trees were floated downriver from 60 miles away to create the roof and floors. There are holes that line up with the sun on the summer solstice and even the lunar cycles. Today, after 900 years of erosion and decay, it is still pretty impressive.

In the 1400s, the populations of these villages had decreased and the people dispersed to end up forming 6 tribes that are still around today, the Tohono O’odham Nation, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Hopi Tribe, and Pueblo of Zuni.

The land was set aside by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892 as the first National Archeological Reserve. (Arizona was still a Territory). They built a corrugated tin roof shelter in 1903 to help protect it from the elements, and this first shelter was replaced by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1932 using steel and timber which remains over it today. In 1916, President  Woodrow Wilson changed it to a National Monument.

It was a very informative visit. Looking at all the work they did with their hands and very primitive tools, we really marveled at their ingenuity and perseverance to do it all.

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