DescriptionAt Homolovi Ruins State Park just north of Winslow, a cooperative effort between the Hopi Tribe, Arizona State Parks and the University of Arizona has revealed clues about life on the Colorado Plateau over seven hundred years ago.
The dwellings of those who came before us proudly stood above ground while in use. Once abandoned, sand and soil carried by hundreds of years of wind slowly buried them. Over time, entire villages disappeared, only to be found centuries later by archaeologists. One such place is Homolovi.
So "Homolovi" literally translated from Hopi generally refers to the place of the small hills, and Homolovi isn't just one isolated village, it's really -- was a network of villages in that area. And you'll be amazed today at how advanced those villages were and how well-organized they were, and it's -- it's just covered by sand.
At Homolovi Ruins State Park just north of Winslow, a cooperative effort between the Hopi tribe, Arizona State Parks, and the University of Arizona has revealed clues about life on the Colorado Plateau over 700 years ago.
Homolovi villages generally are occupied over about a 150-year period from 1260 to 1400 or so. There's really a cluster of seven pueblos, and they are situated along a 20-mile course of the Little Colorado River . The one that we're working on now, Chevelon, has 500 rooms. Two of the others have over 1,000 rooms. Probably about 2,000 people were living here at one time, and these people are ancestral, or ancient Hopi people. We've spread across the pueblo, and there are groups of archaeologists who are excavating in generally two rooms that are next to each other, and what we do is we excavate down in half of the room to expose the walls of the room and the floor of the room, but then also what we call the profile, the part that is not a wall that tells us a story about how that room filled up.
Boy, that's an interesting piece.
A lot of the materials that we're finding that are left behind, so to speak, were just things that were just accumulated through daily life here, kids and dogs kicking over pots and breaking them and things, so it's just material that's left behind. We do find occasional deposits that look as though they were purposefully left as kind of dedicatory or reminder things for when they did close down structures and finally left.
Somebody actually dug through the floor and inserted a green ax head. And around the ax head, we found little bones of cottontail rabbit. We've got some leg bones and actually a little bit of a skull, so it's very interesting. We also found two – a jackrabbit and a cottontail laid out here, and over here inside of the pot, there were remains of at least two animals:
we have remains of a cottontail rabbit and a jackrabbit, and it looks like charcoal, so we're wondering if this is an offering of some sort. And it seems because of all these special items that this was an important ritual structure.
Archaeology is a sense of place as well as of the material; you have to put it into a context. So here we're along a river, and that's why these people were living here. In another place there may have been another resource that they were using. And that's the same thing that people do today. They're located because there's something there that they value or that's important for them to live. In this case today, it's jobs. Back then it was where they could make a living and survive.
Their daily life, especially this time of year, during the summer, would have been very, very heavily busy doing farming and producing corn and squash and beans and trying to make sure all the crops had enough water to grow to produce what they wanted out of them.
The other thing they were able to grow here is cotton, and we have abundant evidence of cotton in the form of burned cottonseeds and woven textiles, and in the kivas we excavate there are remains of where looms would have been set up for weaving textiles out of cotton.
The women would most likely be at home taking -- raising the children, but they would have their own chores to do, and the men would most likely be out farming, but also in -- in the off-seasons or other months where -- or the free time they would have away from farming, hunting, gathering in further distant areas -- even trading. These villages weren't isolated. There were other – other villages just right around there that had resources or even might specialize in a certain type of resource and trade that.
Cotton was what they traded out, and what they got in was pottery, obsidian, which is volcanic glass from the Flagstaff area...
Animal products, hides and things. We've discovered macaws and other kinds of birds in the Homolovi sites that are obviously not native to this area.
Just all sorts of things were traded in. It was a really hard life on the Colorado Plateau. There weren't a lot of resources to live on. These people had to be very intimately associated with their land, and they ranged widely across the land just to live from day to day.
I feel a deep sense of respect because just being in that element and looking at the surrounding landscape, you know that these people were survivors, and that's what kept them together, that our culture today is viable because of their sacrifices, because of their knowledge, their adaptations to the land, the knowledge of the resources below and above the earth. So when we go through excavating or just visiting the sites, you know that their hearts are in that place, their spirits are still there.
Well, Margo, it looks like that might be all of that bird.
Is that all the bird?
Seems to be all that's in here, yeah.
If there's going to be no real stabilization and protection of it, then the best way to protect it again, after we're done with it, is to fill it all back in, so we'll -- we'll line it with barriers of some sort -- you know, textile or plastic -- so that anybody coming in 100 years from now can know where we've been in the past. And then in goes the dirt in a big flurry, and it's over with a lot faster than it comes out.