Arizona - Holiday facts and Information

Holiday facts and information about Arizona

General facts

Country and People

Country and People


Some 12,000 to 15,000 years ago, the first residents of Arizona arrived. Bands of hunters armed with stone-tipped spears, these Paleo-Indians came in pursuit of large animals, such as bison and mammoths, and wild plant foods. Without art or building skills, however, they left almost no trace of themselves. As the climate grew warmer and drier, sometime around 9000 B.C. most of the big animals vanished. A new culture appeared, hunting smaller animals and gathering nuts, seeds, and berries. They made a great technological jump forward between 2000 and 500 B.C. — agriculture. The Indians planted and harvested corn, squash, and beans, providing themselves a diet of high protein and balanced nutrition. Beginning in perhaps 200 B.C., groups of these ancient people began to build villages. They lived in “pithouses,” each a shallow pit beneath a wooden frame that was filled in with mud plaster to make walls. By trading, these people gathered not only goods but also ideas from outside their home territories. Religion appeared, directed toward rainfall and the harvest. Art flourished. The most prominent of these early farming cultures were the Hohokam (southern deserts), the Mogollon (mountain valleys in the eastern uplands), the Anasazi (high deserts on the Colorado Plateau), and the Sinagua (Verde Valley, southern Colorado Plateau). Between A.D. 500 and 1100 Arizona’s early cultures made further leaps forward. In architecture, they built homes above the ground in pueblo style. In trade, they collected everything from parrot feathers to copper bells. In culture, they learned to grow and weave cotton, created complex towns, conducted elaborate spiritual ceremonies, made pottery decorated with sophisticated images of birds and lizards, and even dug irrigation ditches in the Salt and Gila River valleys. By A.D. 1350 the Hohokam were erecting high-rise buildings, and today you can visit the ruins of four-story Casa Grande (Big House), which scientists figure may have been an observatory for marking the solstices, and possibly a residence for a top level of Hohokam society, perhaps priests or elite leaders. At the same time, the Anasazi (“Ancient Ones”) made great advances in northeastern Arizona. Their cities, built in the protective alcoves of towering sandstone cliffs, fit into their stone settings like jewels into a crown. These pueblos consisted of apartments, large and communal. Most had ceremonial rooms called kivas, where religious rituals and social gatherings took place. Despite their success, however, the Anasazi vanished around A.D. 1300, followed by the Hohokam and other major cultures of early Arizona. No one has been able to fathom why this happened, although drought may have led them to abandon their villages. Today, powerful aura seems to exist around the old homes of the Anasazi, something almost ghostly. Perhaps this explains why the Najavo never moved into the abandoned Anasazi cities. Arizona is one of the few places where you can have a direct experence of America’s most distant past. Its ruins surround you. Spectacular Anasazi ruins stand in Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The Sinagua (who may have blended Anasazi and Hohokam cultures) left ruins at Casa Grande, Montezuma Castle, Wupatki, Walnut Canyon, and Tuzigoot National Monuments.