Rock Art Ranch


Remains of a matate, or grounding stone

Field School Excavation Uncovers Kiva, Other Late Pueblo Era Artifacts

Located near Winslow, the study site known as Rock Art Ranch is believed to have been occupied almost continuously for the past 10,000–13,000 years.

Rock Art Ranch is located 25 miles south and east of Winslow and Homol’ovi State Park, where Dr. E. Charles (Chuck) Adams and Richard C. Lange conducted research from 1984–2006.

The ranch is named after a famous petroglyph site in Chevelon Canyon, which borders the west side of the ranch. Researchers at Arizona State Museum and the University of Arizona School of Anthropology felt that this new area might help provide additional context on the period preceding the late pueblo period (1260–1400 CE) at Homol’ovi.

During its four years of operation, the field school excavated in three sites. At one, researchers uncovered two rooms and an extensive outside work area dating from 1230–1250 CE, based on radiocarbon dates, and a pit house and storage pit dating to before the appearance of pottery or before 500 CE.

At the second site, located 100 miles from the first,  a possible kiva, or ceremonial structure, was uncovered. Testing of burned surface features at two pre-ceramic sites were radiocarbon-dated to 100 BCE and 500 CE. During 2013–14, the field school excavated and mapped the Multi-Kiva (MK) site located south of the ranch. It is estimated to date about 1200 CE. MK has up to 20 rooms and in some places measures two stories.

The field school has also surveyed 2382 acres (3.72 sq mi) of the Rock Art Ranch property and another 640 acres in the section surrounding MK. All told 138 sites and loci, or groups of artifacts, have been recorded, 110 on the ranch and 28 on the MK section.

13,000-Year History

Our impression is that the study area has been lightly used or occupied almost continuously for the past 10,000–13,000 years, but only intensively used and occupied for about 50 years, from 1200–1250 CE. Plain ware ceramics and architectural style of the pueblos suggest the groups settling these pueblos migrated from the Mogollon Rim region to the south or east.

Decorated pottery exchanged to these pueblos was with groups to the north in the Hopi Buttes and to the east in Silver Creek and other drainages into the Little Colorado River.

Creswell Pueblo near Homol’ovi III is quite similar to these pueblos, suggesting not only exchange into this region but a possibility that descendents of these pueblos populated the Homol’ovi pueblos of the late 1200s.

Pre-ceramic groups show these connections and boundaries through lithic assemblages — lots of petrified wood and no virtually no obsidian, suggesting connections to the east. Projectile point styles are also strongly associated with traditions to the east and south and less so to the north.

Jeddito Yellow Ware, produced in Hopi Mesa villages and so common in the Homol’ovi pueblos, is nearly absent on the ranch. It is most common on top of pre-ceramic sites on Bell Cow Canyon and is sometimes associated with obsidian.

The yellow ware dates 1330 to perhaps as late as 1700, suggesting Chevelon Canyon was a continued place of importance to Hopi people long after the Homol’ovi pueblos were depopulated.

Learn more about the Rock Art Ranch Field School on the School of Anthropology website.