Part of being a musician means life on the road. Playing the Native American flute, I tend to traveled through the Southwest a lot. Yesterday I did an appearance at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument and between sets got to take a tour of the largest ruin on the site, or “Big House”, for which the monument is named.
This very large structure is from the Hohokam culture which was once the largest prehistoric culture in what is now southern Arizona, around modern day Phoenix and Tucson. Built during the Civano phase circa AD 1300 - 1350 Casa Grande lies about halfway between these two modern cities. The Big House is the only remaining structure of it’s kind and was thought to be used by an elite class or perhaps for religious purposes by priests. It is made up of several rooms that surround an inner room. During it's height of use by the Hohokam it was four stories high. In addition to it’s size the building was also aligned to movements of the sun and moon.
In the inner most room of the Big House, holes in the wall are aligned with the equinoxes of the rising sun. In the photo above, the hole on the left is where the rising sun shines into Casa Grande during the equinox and casts it’s image on the opposite wall. As the sun moves higher in the sky, it’s the spot it projects on the opposite wall moves down the wall and lines up inside a hole in that wall. There are also alignments to the Major and Minor standstills of the moon.
Surrounding the Big House are adobe, or caliche, room blocks like modern apartment structures. These made up a larger compound that may have once been walled in like a small ancient medieval city. Casa Grande Runs National Monument consists of at least four of these compounds. Many of the compounds have platform mounds that where used for ceremonies, dances and other public events. Much like plazas are used by modern Pueblo cultures. There is also a ball court where an ancient game was played with a rubber ball. Ball courts are common in Meso America and their presence in North America is thought to be a cultural influence from there. Records of the Meso American version of the game indicate that the players could not use their hands while playing the game. In some cultures the losing team lost more than the game, they were sacrificed upon losing. To read more about other travels I’ve taken in the southwest visit the ECHOES FROM THE ROAD section of www.cedarmesa.com
As an aside, the desert, after the huge amounts of rain that have fallen this winter, is in full bloom now. Wildflowers are everywhere and everything is a wonderful green.