Thu, Nov. 14

V Bar V Ranch -- the heritage site

You have read about the V Bar V Ranch in its modern metamorphosis, i.e. as homesteads that eventually became part of the University of Arizona. But what about its non-ranching history...its ancient ancestry that reaches back into Paleolithic times?

Clues to the ancients who peopled this area centuries ago can be found in the abundance of petroglyphs at this site. Petroglyphs are scratching/carving on rock walls as opposed to pictographs which are painting on rock walls.

Pioneer homesteaders were aware of the "scratching" on the rocks and cave walls, and archaeologists knew about the site since early in the 20th century.

But no formal effort to study the anecdotal reports was made until very late in the 20th century (1994). It was through the curiosity of volunteers in Friends of the Forest, especially Ken Zoll, that the solar calendar of the Sinagua people was located and documented on the site.

The petroglyphs led to a study of possible ceremonial calendars used to time corn planting and other rituals important to the culture. The site in the Verde Valley was peopled by the Sinagua from ca. 900-1400 A.D. Calendar evidence at the site indicates that this was an agrarian culture. These folks needed to know when the warming and the cooling of the sun as the seasons changed would impact their planting patterns. They created calendars out of rock.

Archaeoastronomy, or cultural astronomy, is defined in "Sinagua Sunwatchers" as the study of the diverse ways in which cultures perceived and integrated objects in the sky into their world view. With nothing but their hands and primitive tools to chip away rock walls these folks were able to create a dependable planting guide...a prehistoric Old Farmers' Almanac.

To date, 1,032 rock petroglyphs have been found at this Southern Sinagua (probably ancestors of the modern Hopi) V Bar B site. Ken Zoll was a docent at the site in 2005 when he noticed the sun coming through two rocks and matching up with concentric circles scratched on another rock.

Curious, he took a picture and showed it to an archaeologist who was a bit skeptical. However, he got permission to keep taking pictures. When he showed his film effort to Peter Pilles, there was no argument. A Sinaguan solar calendar was discovered.

The V Bar B Heritage Site is rich with carvings indicating a thriving culture involved in agriculture and trade.

Take the time to get a glimpse of days really of yore. Schedule a visit to the site (928-282-3854). And think about what volunteering some of your time to any cause could lead to.

The photo is for fun. It is a 1940s version of a "modern" chuck wagon actually used on the V Bar V.

(Many thanks to Kenneth Zoll for the information and the photo)

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