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Cultural Resources

Committee Chair- Connie Stone


Prehistoric people lived on Perry Mesa and Black Mesa for hundreds of years.  Early hunters, plant gatherers, and farmers relied on the natural resources of the mesas and hills.  More permanent settlements, called pithouse villages, were established as early as A.D. 750 by people related to the Hohokam tradition.  The population grew, especially after about A.D. 1280, with an influx of new settlers who established larger settlements, including pueblo villages constructed of stone masonry. Eight of these settlements on Perry and Black Mesas contained more than 50 rooms. Most were located within a day's walk of each other and may have supported as many as 3,000 people during the A.D. 1300s.  The people in these communities were connected by social and economic relationships into what archaeologists have called the Perry Mesa Tradition. 

The people practiced agriculture by farming crops, such as corn and beans, on ingenious systems of rock-lined terraces that captured rainfall within farm plots. They also cultivated native agave plants, harvested wild plant foods such as seeds and cactus fruits, and hunted large and small game animals.  Archaeologists have suggested that during the 1300s, evidence indicates the climate and rainfall on the mesas were especially conducive to farming.  That situation changed by the mid-1400s, when droughts may have contributed to people moving away from the mesas, leaving the pueblo settlements for more distant regions.

Beyond the mesas, the people traded with other groups for obsidian stone, shell, painted pottery, and other items.  There may have been ongoing alliances with people living along the Verde River.  Some sites have features that indicate a need for defense against hostile attacks. 

The AFNM essentially preserves an ancient cultural landscape, with thousands of archaeological sites, ranging from pottery drops to the remains of small structures of a few rooms to large pueblos of 50 or more rooms.  Long paths cleared across the rocky ground, sometimes called "race tracks," may have served a ceremonial purpose to cement social relationships among the villages.  Petroglyphs ("rock art" pecked into cliffs and boulders) are ubiquitous and intriguing, and often located in scenic settings.  Walking within the AFNM imparts the feeling that one is venturing into the past of the vast landscape of grasslands and canyons. 

Non-Native American History

Ranchers, homesteaders, and miners moved onto the mesas by the late 1800s.  Their names are linked to the modern landscape, including Perry Mesa and Joe's Hill.  Homesteaders worked to farm the land, establishing small communities with roads and schools.  Ranchers worked cattle and transported large herds of sheep between summer and winter ranges.  The Richinbar Mine, overlooking the Agua Fria River, produced gold and supported a small settlement between the 1890s and the 1930s.  Traces of these activities are found on the landscape. 

Native American Connections to the Landscape

Many Native American tribes have ancestral connections, migration stories, and histories of gathering together and subsisting on the natural resources within the monument.  Some tribal territories incorporated use of the Perry Mesa landscape into the 20th century. Native peoples continue to have profound cultural and religious connections to the area, as well as knowledge of how they have used the land and its resources. Among these tribes are the Yavapai, Apache, Akimel O'odham, and Hopi. 

 Values of Cultural Resources

Designation as a National Monument offered protection to the many values that are threatened by damage from activities like looting of archaeological sites, illegal digging, and travel of off-highway vehicles away from designated routes. 

Knowledge: We can gain much knowledge of the past from scientific research projects, historic documents and oral histories, and traditional knowledge and oral histories of Native American peoples.  Examples include the Legacies on the Landscape research project conducted by Arizona State University; studies of agave species by the Desert Botanical Garden; recording and study of petroglyph sites; and surveys of the distributions of prehistoric pottery types. 

Cultural Values: Native American tribes have strong ancestral connections to the landscape and its significance in their histories.  In addition to a vested interest in resource protection, tribes can offer important information on past land uses and place names. 

Public Education and Appreciation:  Interpretive facilities, educational programs, and site tours offer public opportunities to learn, visit, and foster support for the stewardship and protection of cultural resources. 


Places to visit

-Pueblo La plata 

-Badger springs

-Teskey home site

-1895 school house 

About the Petroglyphs

Help us to support and protect 

-FAFNM Cultural Resource Committee 

-site etiquette brochure 

-Arizona Site Steward Program

Friends of Agua Fria National Monument

P.O. Box 290

Black Canyon City, AZ  85324

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