Stories on stone: Kaibab forest to highlight Archaeology Month

Hikers stop at Keyhole Sink to see petroglyphs and listen to Kaibab National Forest archaeologist Neil Weintraub explain the history of the area. (Kaibab National Forest)

Hikers stop at Keyhole Sink to see petroglyphs and listen to Kaibab National Forest archaeologist Neil Weintraub explain the history of the area. (Kaibab National Forest)

With more than 6,000 archaeological and historic sites on Kaibab National Forest, archaeologists stay busy monitoring and preserving these historic treasures.

Archaeology Month on the Kaibab

March 3-31 Saturday hikes to Keyhole Sink petroglyphs

March 7 Olivia Charest to speak about historic Route 66 across northern Arizona.

March 14 Joseph Jordan and Neil Weintraub to speak about Coconino County’s one room school houses.

March 21 Alan Messimer to speak on the sheepherding family of local resident Edith Poquette.

March 28 Shane Murphy will share stories about Grand Canyon pioneer John Hance.

Hidden among the ponderosas and juniper trees, most people have never seen these sites and some may not even be aware they exist.

In an effort to share the treasures hidden around Kaibab National Forest, archaeologist Neil Weintraub is hosting a lecture and hiking series about some of the archaeology and history on the Kaibab during Archaeology Month.

The series kicks-off March 3 with a hike to Keyhole Sink near Parks, Arizona. The Keyhole Sink trail is a short pathway to a scenic box canyon where prehistoric people left their mark carved into the canyon's gray volcanic walls.

According to Weintraub, nearly 1,000 years ago, ancient artists scrawled images into the dark basalt possibly using rock tools. The petroglyphs left behind seem to suggest that the area was historically important as a hunting ground.

People known as the Cohonina inhabited northwestern Arizona between 500 A.D. and 1200 A.D.

“They had a lot of habitation structures around the area and because that was the most populated time in our prehistory, right before the eruption of Sunset Crater, we believe these petroglyphs are related to those,” Weintraub said.

The Cohonina left two distinctive panels of petroglyphs at Keyhole Sink. One of the most intriguing is a panel with a keyhole shape where several animals appear to have been corralled inside. The other panel has human and animal motifs. There is one of a frog, another is a bear paw print and there is one of a deer herd entering the canyon.

“It’s almost like someone is telling the story of the hunt because you have the outline of the lava flow and then you have these deer or ungulates coming into the water hole,” Weintraub said. “And then you see what looks like a hunter along the edge.”

The Cohonina lived alongside the Anasazi and are most known for the significant amount of pottery they produced. They also left stone houses, pottery shards, stone tools, grinding stones and rock art across the forest.

In addition to sharing the archaeology of the Kaibab, Weintraub uses Archaeology Month to reveal some of the more recent history of the area.

“When I think of archaeology, I think prehistory, but archaeology and history go hand in hand,” Weintraub said. “We have thousands of historic sites and such a rich history.”

Weintraub said retired forester John Holmes will lead some of the hikes into Keyhole Sink. He will not only speak about the Cohonina people, but will also share his expertise as a forester.

“We came up with this concept of instead of just making it an archaeology take, we turn it into a forest health and history hike,” Weintraub said.

Weintraub said now that the lecture series and hike are in their tenth year, he has started to see the value in reaching out to experts in the community.

“We used to just talk about what happened during the year or some interesting project we were working on and then Margaret Hangan [Kaibab National Forest Heritage and Tribal Program Manager] started working on recruiting people from the community,” he said. “That’s been a great addition to what we do.”

Schedule of events

On March 7, Weintraub has arranged for Olivia Charest to give a lecture highlighting Historic Route 66 across northern Arizona. Charest is doing graduate work at NAU and has a special interest in Route 66 history. She has also spent time as a site steward, or volunteer, with Kaibab National Forest.

On March 14, Joseph Jordan and Weintraub will give a presentation about Coconino County’s long forgotten one room school houses. Jordan has done extensive research on the historic schools in the area.

“He has spent thousands of hours scouring through the old Williams News, just looking for information,” Weintraub said. “He also will speak about the history of the people. He likes to tell stories, he’s a storyteller.”

On March 21, Alan Messimer will speak about oral histories he obtained with local Williams resident Edith Poquette.

“Edith Poquette comes from a long line of ranching and sheepherder families,” Weintraub said.

Shane Murphy will give the final lecture in the series March 28, which includes stories about Grand Canyon pioneer John Hance.

Hance was one of the first tour guides at the Grand Canyon. He originally came to the Canyon as an asbestos miner and after that failed he turned to tourism. He was a popular storyteller and people sought him ought when they came to the Canyon. Hance was the first person to be buried at the Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery.

“Hance had a trail out of Ash Fork where he would take people on a wagon road,” Weintraub said. “He had a camp right on the rim.”

Arizona State Parks, the State Historic Preservation Office and the Governor’s Archaeology Advisory Commission sponsor Archaeology Month each March.

This is the 10th year Kaibab National Forest has organized weekly lectures and hikes during Archaeology Month.

The lectures take place every Wednesday in March at 6 p.m. at the council chambers at City Hall, 113 S 1st St., Williams.

The guided Keyhole Sink hikes run every Saturday through the month of March. Hikers will meet either Weintraub or Holmes at the Oak Hill Snow Play area, four miles west of Parks on Route 66 at 2 p.m. The hike is 0.6 miles each way and last around two hours. Participants are encouraged to dress warmly and wear appropriate hiking footwear.

Attendees are encouraged to call ahead to make reservations for the lectures and hikes at (928) 635-5600.

Comments

Comments are not posted immediately. Submissions must adhere to our Use of Service Terms of Use agreement. Rambling or nonsensical comments may not be posted. Comment submissions may not exceed a 200 word limit, and in order for us to reasonably manage this feature we may limit excessive comment entries.

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.