Native American rock art reveals Cave Creek’s forgotten past

etroglyphs found in the Cave Creek reveal what life was like for the Hohokam, Yavapai, and Pima tribes

Livia Lowe, science editor

Native Americans hold a rich history in the Cave Creek area.
The oldest surviving evidence dates back a little over one thousand years ago. From 1 to 1450 CE, the Hohokam settled semi-permanently in modern day Cave Creek.
“The Native peoples that we recognize as this being their land is the Hohokams, and they did pottery and basket weaving,” said Evelyn Johnson, director of the Cave Creek Museum.
At first, the Hohokam built houses out of adobe and primarily crafted pottery and tools. As the Hohokam tribe grew, new technologies were needed to sustain the population. Notably, the Hohokam people developed complex irrigation systems. They were the only tribe in the broader area to use an irrigation system to water their crops. Due to this technology, the Hohokam were able to rely heavily on agriculture.
These kinds of innovations keep their culture relevant today.
“I think their culture is cool,” said Jakob Duffey, a freshman.
Their diets mainly included beans, squash, and corn, all things they could grow themselves. One of the most collected items by archeologists is pottery. Pottery was important to these ancient cultures as clay pots had functions like holding water, and eating but also served as a form of expression for spiritual ceremonies.
“We estimate a plain piece of pottery is about a week’s worth of work, and adding the painting side of it you add more time, we have also found shell bracelets in the ares,” said Johnson.
By about 1400 CE, the area had been abandoned by the Hohokam. As of today, there are no more archeological artifacts that date the Hohokam beyond then. Because of their reliance on water, it is likely that a drought had driven them out of the area.
The Hohokam were not the only ones to abandon their settlements. In the four corners area at the time, it was common for Native American tribes to abandon their villages to move south due to drought.
In the following 200 years after the Hohokam, no one permanently settled in the Cave Creek area. However, two new tribes eventually settled in the area, the Yavapai and Pima.
The Yavapai were a migrating tribe, moving whenever and wherever suited them. They built houses made of light materials like brush and branches.
Pima, thought to be descendants of the Hohokam, settled in the area and lived similarly to their ancestors. These tribes dominated the area until European conquistadors migrated to the area in search of gold in the 18th century.
“I like that they’re resourceful, they don’t let any part of the animal go to waste,” said Allana Chirco, a junior.
European contact would kill off most of the Native Americans, and those who survived the diseases were taken under rule and had to conform to European ways of life.
Now, all that remains of the Native Americans who once lived in Cave Creek are petroglyphs, broken pottery and crumbling dwellings.