Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

December 16, 2011

Year 2011 Meets Years 1200-1350


by Heather Baker

Archeology was the topic of the Sedona Westerners’ Tracker hike on a sunny November day. How fortunate we are to be living where early ones lived too, built pueblos, tended fields, foraged for food and cherished water. Fortunate, too, we are to be zigzagging up to this hilltop pueblo following the archeologist, Jean Kindig.

More then 100 pueblo people lived here on this hilltop; people whose rock art at V Bar V Ranch testifies to their wide knowledge and wisdom. They built a 60 to 80-room structure consisting of one or two story units whose once squared corners have rounded as the limestone crumbled. There are no kivas here. A rectangular red sandstone lintel (the top of a doorway) stands out against the rubble, and there smoothed black basalt remains of a metate. Both, Jean says, were carried up from elsewhere, since sandstone and basalt are not naturally part of this hilltop. . A skillfully flint-knapped piece of chert fits neatly into my hand. Who knew that former sponges and anemones could become hard enough to skin a rabbit, deer, elk, antelope or desert bighorn sheep!

The Sedona Westerners, on an archeology outing, pause after coming down from a hilltop pueblo. At the base rain water collects and stands in a sandstone trough, which may have been available to early residents following storms. The Verde Valley contains many ancient ruins, and artifacts, all of which must be left undisturbed by visitors.

There, on the plaza floor, we see more modern artifacts! Comically out of place and recently abandoned, lie two burgundy wool gloves, jarring evidence of “Walmart culture man’s” presence amidst the sacred ruins of the Southern Sinagua. Contemporary culture startles us here.

On the cliff’s edge we overlook a waterhole 200 ft below, still holding water from the last rain, in a red sandstone trough. Traces of a treacherous path descend. And there is evidence of prehistoric gardens in the surrounding flat areas: rows of black basalt rocks, 6-10 feet apart, still adsorbing and radiating heat from the sun into the garden space between them.

Scanning a large oval depression ringed with rock, on reasonably level ground, we consider, “Was it a possible reservoir beside the creek?” There is no inlet. Might it have been a ball court? Try passing a ball, big or small, from your leather-wrapped hip! Earlier Mesoamericans played a ball game on such courts, and the idea traveled to the Hohokam in Arizona. Might it not still be deeply entrenched in contemporary man’s consciousness?

We scramble down the rubble, learning about pottery: red tuzigoot plainware, black on white sherds from the Flagstaff area, and polychrome from afar. Is the paint mineral or vegetable? We learned that vegetable colors penetrate the clay more deeply! From the ball court we walk around to the water hole, gazing back up the imposing cliffs, and finding it hard to imagine how women carried water back up, with no obvious access.

While picnicking by the stream, George tells us of how Martha Summerhayes, an early pioneer and traveler in northern Arizona, placed her baby on a ‘bare’ patch of dirt here in the desert, only to learn about anthills the hard way.

We realize how fortunate indeed we are, as we marvel at those who have gone before. We are more grateful for our running water and comfy beds. I marvel too at my fellow hikers and the vast pool of knowledge we carry, from archeology to geology, botany, photography and even computers. What a network! One has often helped me think through a computer glitch while out on the trail. Being curious about a shrub, I consulted another on my way home. I was thinking about walnut and its usefulness to the puebloans, but with its wavy leaf edges, maybe this shrub was soapberry, and who doesn’t need that after a sweaty ball game!

It is like magic that Jean Kindig’s copy of “Vanished Arizona,” by Martha Summerhayes, is beside me as I write this. I give thanks for so many blessings.

The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining the club, log onto our website,, for membership information. You may also join at one of our monthly meetings. Our next regular meeting will be on Thursday, January 12, 2012, beginning at 7p.m. at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.