During the 2003 winter the University of Arizona supported an archeologist in his search for signs left by the ancient ones, the Anasazis. He, in turn, encouraged us, the Arizona Snowbirds, to accompany him on his quest. We first followed he and his wife to a place near a small stand of Palo Verde trees. There was nothing to see but sand, dirt, and greasewood. He was undaunted by what lay on the vacant surface, so we helped him lay out a circular grid that extended some fifty feet beyond a baker’s bucket we used for the center, marking the would-be lines with small, wooden stakes and string, assigning each a location number such as a1, b3, etc.. Then we began the tedious search, inspecting each stone for signs that it might have been altered in some way to serve as a tool or weapon.
“What are we looking for?” I asked. “I mean what is the goal here?”
“We are looking for signs of a village. We believe it once existed somewhere on this small plateau about 900 years ago. We must find the exact location.”
“How will we know when we’ve found it?” I asked.
“You will know,” trust me, he explained.
During the passing of seven hours of that first day we identified a handful of sharpened rocks that might have been used as skinning knives. But more important, we found a near-perfect arrowhead small enough to have been used for a bird. In addition, there was a turquoise bead about 3/8″ in which a hole was bored off-center. I experienced a sense of wonder to lay eyes on a personal item that had lain on the desert floor, unnoticed for nearly a thousand years.
Photos were taken, exact locations recorded and then, using our grid, following a hard, fast rule. Each Item was returned to exact place we’d found it. Taking items homes is not allowed, ever. At the end of the day our information and photographs were mailed to the University of Arizona where they would be pieced together in mosaic fashion.
While awaiting further instructions on how to proceed, we moved to another archeological site located in the western section of Organ Pipe National Monument.
Following an hours drive through the desert, we hiked a mile along a dry wash. Eventually, we came upon a path leading through a “canyon” of rocks many as large as a square meter. They were piled ten or twelve feet high and extended about fifty yards. On these stones were illustrations, painting, messages that meant nothing to us. We had no clue as to who made these or when, or even why.
Our leader explained that our job was to photograph each painting, take an exact GPS reading and identify the approximate direction each one faced. Last of all, we were to draw, to the best of our ability, what we saw. Everything was carefully cataloged and then mailed to the university.
At the end of ten years the procedure would be repeated, which would have been 2013 and again in 2023. By judging the amount of deterioration during that decade long period they hoped to determine when these Anasazi had painted these rocks.
Perhaps someday we will know who these people were and what information these “road signs” were sharing.