With traces of human inhabitants going as far back as 11,000 BC, Red Rock Country is rich with historic sites scattered around the area. From Paleo-Indian culture to Pueblo, all of the people living here in the past have left us some part of their lives, be it in the form of cliff dwellings, petroglyphs or tools they used. Most of these artifacts are preserved and on display and are very valuable to our understanding of our ancestors. These sites are under the care of US Forest Service and are managed with the help of Verde Valley Archaeological Society.
There are several major archeological sites in the area. Palatki and Honanki sites were named by J. W. Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution, who studied them in 1895 and 1905. The names mean Red House and Bear House on Hopi Indians language, although there are no evidence that Hopi ever inhabited these sites. Both sites are built by the members of Southern Sinaqua culture.
Palatki consists of two pueblos, probably a home of two families or a kin group. It was built between 1100 and 1400 AD. Both dwellings face south. Original inhabitants were producing clay pottery and farming. There are numerous pictographs and petroglyphs in the area, some of them much older than pueblos. Several are believed to be 6,000 years old, dating back to Archaic period. Unfortunately, comparison with the photographs from early 1900s reveals that some 70 - 90% of structures has been destroyed since. There are three trails around the site, each leading to different part of it.
Honanki site is much bigger. At the time it was inhabited, from 1100 AD to 1300 AD, it was the largest settlement in Red Rock Country. This entire period of Sinaqua culture was named after Honanki. One of the beams recovered from the ruins was tree-ring dated to 1270 AD. Same as with Palatki, Honanki is surrounded by pictographs and petroglyphs from different time periods, some from 2000 BC. Every culture that inhabited the site has left their mark, without disturbing any of the drawings from previous tenants. Honanki was last inhabited between 1400 and 1875, by Yavapai and Apache people, who also contributed their pictographs.
V Bar V Heritage Site is the largest “rock art” site in the Red Rock Country. It is a part of larger Beaver Creek area and it was crucial in determining the Beaver Creek rock art style, characteristic of southern Sinaqua culture. The site consists of more than 1,000 petroglyphs divided on 13 panels. It was once part of V bar V ranch, which gave it its name and it was bought by Coconino National Forest in 1994. Ranchers did their best to preserve the site from destruction, which is the main reason why the drawings are so well preserved.
Montezuma Castle is neither a castle nor has it anything to do with Montezuma. It is however an amazing cliff dwelling carved in a cliff high above Beaver Creek. It is remarkably preserved, thanks to its position in an alcove that protects it from the elements. It was built over the course of three centuries, from 1100 to 1450. A large structure of some 4,000 square feet spanning five stories and consisting of twenty rooms, Montezuma Castle is a prime example of how skilled engineers and builders Sinuaqua people were. In its peak around 1300 it is believed that it housed between 30 and 50 people. Next to it the foundations of even larger structure were found, which unfortunately didn’t survive.
Some 11 miles from Montezuma Castle is Montezuma well, a large sinkhole with abundant spring, which was used by Sinaqua to irrigate their fields. They created a complex irrigation system which is believed to have supplied water to as much as 60 acres of farm land. The Well is very sacred to Yavapai people, as they believe that their ancestors emerged to the world here.
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