Shana Fischer: The deer valley rock art center is like most museums. Sure there are paintings... And there are sculptures. But what makes this museum different is its setting.
Casandra Hernandez: The DVRAC is an archaeological site on 47 acres in our Sonoran desert preserve.
Shana Fischer: The museum is nestled into the hedgpeth hills near i-17 & deer valley. It's home to one of the best examples in the world of petroglyphs.
Casandra Hernandez: For thousands of years people came to this place either during travels and some of them stayed and decided to make marks in the form of carvings in rock. We call these marks petroglyphs and these give us an idea perhaps you know what life was like in prehistoric times. We have the largest concentration of rock in phoenix so we have over 1500 marks in one hillside.
Shana Fischer: Museum curator Casandra Hernandez says although we may recognize symbols: human stick figures... Deer... Fish... Archaeologists can't say for sure what the symbols mean. But they do know this was the earliest form of communication between tribal people. The petroglyphs were discovered after a series of floods in the 1970s.
Casandra Hernandez: So the Army Corps of Engineers built Adobe Dam here. And at the time the dam was going, tourist development was coming to this part of Phoenix so they recommended that a museum was built to preserve the petroglyphs and also to function as an interpretive center where people could learn about the history of Arizona.
Shana Fischer: Hernandez says the best time to enjoy the petroglyphs is in the morning when the sun isn't overhead and you can see the carvings clearly.
Casandra Hernandez: So if you come early in the am you will get a chance to stroll through the acres of landscape. we have I think we can hear quail right now We are a nature preserve so we have many animals and plants that you can learn about and also look at the exhibits and learn something about the people that were here before and left the marks and then also maybe come for one of our events.
Shana Fischer: Tourists come from all over the world to enjoy the scenery. Chanele casaboun is from montreal.
Chanele Casaboun: Smelling the plants. It sounds really weird but I really enjoy it. I am used to the very piney smell of Canada. This is a very different feeling.To kind of get an experience just outside of the city is also nice… to feel like you are a little far away from everything else it’s really nice.
Shana Fischer: For New Zealander Kristy Williams, the combination of the manmade drawings and the nature-made backdrop picqued her curiosity.
Kristy Williams: We are out here looking at the petroglyphs and looking at all the different plants being told about all the different uses, medicinal and there are edible plants. Apparently every single plant out here can be used in one way or another so that was really interesting.
Casandra Hernandez: We should all be invested in preserving places like this not damaging them and being able to share them with future generations. But beyond that to use them as a point for our own understanding. These places give us access to, I want to call them emotional geography, the way we connect to a place, to history, to time, to landscape. And it is also something we want to preserve for other people to enjoy, for other people to have that opportunity to reflect upon their own lives and way, so it's really important we leave things untouched and there for centuries to come.