Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

February 14, 2014

Clear Creek


by Robert Paterson

Ken Zoll, assisted by Jerry Walters, both leading members of the Sedona Archeological Society, led a group of Sedona Westerners on a ʻTrackerʼ hike on 8th January to the Clear Creek archeological site near Camp Verde. The Sedona Westerner Tracker hikes are aimed to have an informative aspect to them, for instance geology, history, botany or archeology.

The Clear Creek site was mainly occupied between 750 AD to 1250 AD and is particularly interesting as the development of living accommodation can be observed across the site, just like in a modern city. From the parking lot caves can be seen in the cliff sides above, and these were some of the first shelters occupied by the Sinagua inhabitants of the region. The cave shelters were based on existing holes in the cliffs which were enlarged to make interconnected dwellings. Storage holes were also carved in the interior of the caves. The limestone, however, remains sharp and uncomfortable on the feet. It raises the question how the original inhabitants managed to make themselves comfortable to sleep on the stones. At least by being south facing the caves benefitted from the heat of the low winter sun, whilst in summer the higher sun placed the caves in a cooler shadow. Some of the rooms were slightly larger and had benches carved from the stone. These were probably communal rooms.

On climbing onto the mesa above the caves Ken Zoll showed us a series of stones placed in a line which he thought might have been a boundary indicator, but he pointed out that this, as with several secrets of the site, will probably never be fully deciphered. At the end of the main mesa was a pueblo. The original walls were of a dry stone construction with rounded corners, but at the far end the walls were held together with mortar and the rooms were rectangular. These were the later built rooms, dating from ʻthe master builderʼ phase of the pueblos development.

The most interesting phase of the tour was, however, the site to the north of the pueblo. Ken Zoll showed the outline of a room, possibly a Kiva, faced North-South, possibly with calendar significance. Nearby was a small pueblo, possibly the residence of the shaman, although this has to be conjecture at this stage. What was more definite was the geoglyph situated on below the edge of the cliff. A geoglyph is a representation of an object made by placing rocks or stones on the ground to outline the object positively, or by cutting away the top rock or soil to give a negative image. Around 100 feet in length and made by carefully placing boulders and rocks, that of Clear Creek represented the figure of snake. Gaps in the snake allowed rocks to the edge of the geoglyph to be lit up at the summer and winter solstice. Some of the rocks would have required great communal effort to maneuver into place.

At one stage several hundred people occupied the site. It is probable that the caves continued to be occupied even when the pueblo was built, the pueblo being necessary to hold a growing population. We found sherds of pottery on the site dating from around 1200-1250, but sometime around this date the Sinagua upped and left, one of the mysteries of the Verde Valley. It is likely that many went up to the Hopi mesas. In the 1920ʼs the site was recognized as of key importance, but by this time it had been looted and much of the archeological evidence destroyed. Extensive illegal activity went on into the 1930ʼs, but attempts to ensure the site was protected ended in failure due to lack of funds. Montezumaʼs Well won over the Clear Creek site as there were only funds for one site to be included. This was a fascinating visit to an extensive but relatively unvisited site.

If you are interested in joining the club, please go to our website at or just come to one of our monthly meetings. The next one will be on Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road.