Pre-Columbian history in Arizona
Collected by Joseph Cyr , AFAR Local Expert
All throughout Arizona are vestiges of ancient societies that built fortified towns, traded with the civilizations of Mexico and Central America, and learned to farm in the seemingly inhospitable environment. Museums do a good job of showcasing Arizona's complex history, but don't limit your exploring to air-conditioned galleries. Pre-Columbian history abounds outdoors as well, and here's where to look.
1100 W Ruins Dr, Coolidge, AZ 85128, USA
Don't go looking for Casa Grande, the national monument of pre-Columbian ruins, in Casa Grande, the sprawling exurb of a town about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. You have to drive about 20 miles away to the small town of Coolidge to find the...
Montezuma Castle Rd, Camp Verde, AZ, USA
As Anglo settlers arrived in the 19th century, several sites throughout the Southwest desert were named, erroneously, for the Aztec emperor Montezuma (Moctezuma). The most famous one—and the one to keep this name officially—is Montezuma Castle...
Hohokam Road, Tucson, AZ 85745, USA
Just beyond the western edge of Tucson, you'll find these Hohokam petroglyphs in Saguaro National Park. No one knows precisely when they were carved into the rocks, but Hohokam settlements in the Sonoran desert date back almost two thousand years....
Payson, AZ, AZ, USA
Petroglyphs are always worth a stop. About 40 minutes north of Globe, on US 60/AZ 77, as the highway winds down through its hairpin curves to the bottom of the Salt River Canyon, stop at 'Hieroglyphic Point.' (It'll be on your left.) This pull-off...
2301 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA
The Heard Museum is a can't-miss cultural institution in Phoenix. Founded in 1929, the Heard details and celebrates American Indian art, history, and tradition through exhibitions, interactive learning, and festivals supporting American Indian...
1013 E University Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
On the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson sits the largest and oldest anthropology museum in the SW United States. If the history and culture of the region interest you, this is the place--the museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian...
25 Tuzigoot Rd, Clarkdale, AZ 86324, USA
A stone village crowning a hilltop above farm fields and a meandering river--sounds like Tuscany, but you're in northern Arizona. Dating back to about 1000 A.D., Tuzigoot was a stronghold of the Sinagua people, who abandoned the site about the...
Pima Canyon, Arizona 85718, USA
One of the quickest and most immersive city-into-wilderness hikes is a trip from Tucson to Pima Canyon. From downtown Tucson, it's a quick drive up through the Santa Catalina foothills to the trailhead parking lot—tucked into saguaro-studded...
3 Walnut Canyon Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86004, USA
A ten-mile drive from downtown Flagstaff will take you back about a thousand years if you take a quick hike down into Walnut Canyon National Monument. From about 1150 AD to the early 1300's, this meandering section of forested canyon was home to a...
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