Sedona Westerners fascinated by Cedar Mesa, Utah presentation and warned of potential dangers to Verde Valley-Sedona archaeological wonders

November 20, 2015

Paul Cooley
by Paul Cooley

On the evening of November 12th 2015, Vaughn Hadenfeldt, the invited speaker at the monthly meeting of the Sedona Westerners hiking club, orally and visually illustrated the many archaeological and geological wonders of the Cedar Mesa area of southern Utah and warned of the potential dangers faced by both Cedar Mesa and the Verde Valley-Sedona area to their respective natural and archaeological wonders.

Hadenfeldt told the group he lived in Bluff, Utah, but grew up exploring, camping and hunting in the Colorado Rockies. He attended Colorado State University, majored in anthropology and continued to work on archaeological excavation and documentation projects with notable southwest archaeologists. For over 30 years he owned Far Out Expeditions and guided people through the red-rock desert to discover for themselves the beauty of the landscape and the story of the people who lived there long ago. He had been featured in books such as "Sandstone Spine" by David Roberts which told the story of their trek across the length of Comb Ridge, television programs showcasing the beauty and prehistoric culture of southeast Utah and magazines including National Geographic Adventure where he was named “North American Expert for Trekking”.

Hadenfeldt's presentation to the Westerners was titled "Cedar Mesa and Beyond" and incorporated a description of his efforts using various means to protect the many archaeological sites presently existing in southeastern Utah. Among the efforts described was a movement to have National Monument status granted to a large part of the area in order to obtain maximum Federal protection of it. Hadenfeldt emphasized, however, that gaining such status was only a part of the battle, as the next step in the protection process was drafting and implementing a management plan, which he stated can take up to 3 years or more, and the details of the plan and the realty of its implication could possibly be far different from what may had been originally contemplated.

Vaughn Hadenfeldt
Vaughn Hadenfeldt who has worked on archaeological excavations and documentation projects , as well as guided expeditions , spoke to the Sedona Westerners about "Cedar Mesa and Beyond."

One preservation movement Hadenfeldt described, called "Bears Ears", was in its formative stages. It was a prominent geological feature in southeastern Utah and had very significant meaning to the Native American people living in the area. This movement was historical in its make-up, as it involved the joint cooperation of Ute, Navajo, Hopi and 11 Pueblo groups in the preservation efforts.

Hadenfeld's visual presentation showed many of the unique and important architectural sites of the Cedar Mesa area as well as ceramic and stone artifacts he found there. Among the latter were Tchamahia digging tools, grinding stones, and bedrock pecked holes, their use was undetermined. In addition, there were various bone tools including tools made from Big Horn sheep antlers called "spoons", but actually thought to be digging tools. He also found and showed cotton cloth remnants, portions of ancient turkey feather blankets and rope made from Yucca he believed could have been used by the ancient Native Americans for rock climbing, among other purposes.

Hadenfeld also depicted many fascinating rock art elements including the controversial alleged depictions of the Pleistocene Columbia Mammoth at what was called the "Bluff Mastodon Panel" in the Cedar Mesa area. This rock art, he believed, was evidence that Paleo-Indians lived in this area 11,000 to 13,000 years ago, because the animal depicted was a remnant mega fauna left over from the last Ice Age and became extinct during that time period.

Hadenfeld emphasizes the fact that the natural and archaeological wonders, not only in the southeastern part of Utah, but in the Verde Valley and Sedona areas as well are at increasing risk because of continuing greater visitation. A large part of this risk exists because visitors do not have a clue as to the proper respect and etiquette to be followed regarding existing ceramics, stone tools, architecture and rock art. He believes if significant protection is not accorded to these treasured natural and archaeological wonders many of them may be vandalized and/or destroyed in the near future.

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