The mysteries of history: Exploring Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Nicole Underwood

By Nicole Underwood / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ
Casa Grande RuinsNational Park Service

(Coolidge, AZ) - There’s nothing quite like marveling at ancient history. Here in Arizona, you’re in the right place for mysterious relics and places for you to be in awe. This sunny state is full of prehistoric structures and artifacts, giving you a glimpse into early civilization. One such place is Casa Grande Ruins or “Great House,” which appeared around 1350 C.E. The story of its origin, however, is a mystery to discover.

Research points to the ancient Salado Indians, or Pueblo Sonoran Desert peoples, as the source builders of Casa Grande, who were also responsible for ancient irrigation farming and early trade connections which lasted over a thousand years. Ancestors to the Hohokam peoples, the ancient Sonoran Desert people were a hunter and gatherer community who, after the desert’s warmer temperature increased, could not sustain living in the environment and migrated elsewhere.

After being a central point for commerce around 1450 C.E. the impressive Casa Grande site was abandoned, with no trace of the reason why it became dormant. Ancient travelers have written about these sites in the 1600 and 1700s, but no ancient written text exists to provide more insight into its origins. Not until1694 were historic accounts written by missionary Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino, documenting the ruins.

Being that these pre-Columbian ruins are approximately 700 years ago makes it an attractive site for visitors. The determined age of the site is based on carbon dating archeologists use, through discovered items like tiny pieces of the wooden beams that formed the floors of the structure. It became authorized as a reservation in 1889 and designated as a national monument in 1918.

The four-story building is a sight to behold, being 0.7 miles or 60 feet wide in diameter and is made of caliche, which is a type of unfortified clay (caliche), that serves as a natural concrete composed of sand, clay, and calcium located in the desert area. According to research published by the National Park Service, it took 3,000 tons of caliche to create the ruins. In these walled compounds, clusters of caliche houses surrounded public plazas and public structures.
Casa Grande Ruins c.1900National Park Service

The earth floor allows support for the additional three stories, which were used as traditional living spaces. There are fascinating openings in the walls which align with both the sun and moon at different times during the year, probably used for ceremonies and to also have a clear site of their canals and farm land for harvest seasons.

Research, repairs, and educational programs continue on this protective site to be able to have a link to our past and also preserve for future generations to experience. Due to the fragile nature of the site, you are not permitted inside, but are allowed to explore outside the structure.

You can visit for free Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to learn about the history of the site, the people and what archaeologists have to share with travelers about any new finds regarding the ruins. As one of largest prehistoric structures in North America, your life will not be ruined but enhanced by visiting the Casa Grande Ruins.

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