The Casa Grande Ruins
One of the most interesting places that I’ve been to on this journey of mine is the Casa Grande Ruins about 20 miles from Casa Grande, AZ where I was staying. I got there relatively early and went in to see the 20-minute film talking about the area and the people who lived here some 1,000 plus years ago. This place in the desert is still considered a holy place by the seven tribes in Arizona and New Mexico who can trace their roots back to around 1450 when the roughly 2,000 Sonoran Desert Ancestral People left the area. It is not known why they left, but some believe it is because the water became scarce. Others think it was because of wide spread flooding of the Gila and Salt rivers; so, it was either too much water or perhaps too little for their agrarian existence. The people living there had evolved from hunters and fishermen to farmers and those working in the crafts making pottery and weaving cloth from the cotton they grew.
The Casa Grande (Great House) is a three-story structure that was built somewhere around 1300 from the material called caliche. It is a concrete like substance made up of sand, clay and limestone, 3,000 tons of it! In order to make the three floored structure it took more that hundreds of Juniper trees that came either by hand or perhaps floated down the Gila from 60 miles away. It is thought that the building itself was for ceremonial or religious purposes. The 4 corners align perfectly with the 4 points on the compass. A circular hole in the 3rd floor west lines up perfectly with the summer solstice. Other openings align with other phenomena such as the solar and lunar eclipses.
The Tohono O’odham Nation, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Gila River Indian Community, the Ak-Chin Indian Community, the Hopi, Pueblo and Zuni tribes all claim their ancestral roots to the people who once inhabited the area. Casa Grande was named by the Jesuit missionary, explorer and mapmaker, Eusebio Francisco Kino, in 1694 more than 200 years since the area had been abandoned. He was the first white to discover the ruins. If you are in the area, I would highly suggest that you take the time to see this piece of Southwestern US history.