March 26, 2017

The Findings at the Fitzmaurice Indian Ruin

The Fitzmaurice Indian Ruin today.

Most of the commuters who go up and down Stoneridge Drive each day probably have noticed a peculiar zig-zagging fence surrounding a hilltop east of the road.

They might wonder: "What is this fence guarding?"

Answer: Perhaps the most significant, undeveloped tourist attraction in all of Yavapai county!

The Fitzmaurice Ruin is far more than a few scattered rock formations. The 27 room main pueblo and its several satellite structures encompass the largest Indian ruin in the Prescott region.

"The first recorded finding of the ruin (by anglos) dates ca. 1864, when two hunters, trailing a wounded deer, found gold nuggets in a wash off Lynx Creek to the south of the ruin, and shortly afterward, discovered the ruin." (*1 p10)

"During the gold-rush days on Lynx Creek a house was built on one of the outlying rooms. According to some of the old-timers of the region, wagon loads of artifacts were carried away from the ruins in early times." (*2 p90)

Archeologists believe that the ruins were occupied from 1140-1300 AD. (*1 p126)

There have been three official archeological digs at Fitzmaurice--two small efforts in the 1930's and an extensive dig in the 1970's. These digs produced some interesting findings at the site.

It is thought that "because of its size and location from other pueblos, the site could well have been a regional or district cultural center of the prehistoric Prescott people." (*1 p5)

Additionally, "it is probable that the site for the pueblo was chosen...for its defensive possibilities. The elevation permits a fine series of partial distance views of the Mingus Mountains and Lonesome Valley to the north and northwest and a commanding view of the nearby countryside." (*1 p5)

The Fitzmaurice Ruin in days of yore.
Here are some other intriguing highlights about these ancient people and their lifestyle...

"As a further defensive measure, small 1 and 2 room masonry-walled structures, called lookouts, were located on nearby mountain tops." (*1 p5)

"Such lookouts were staffed by natives whose duty it was to alert the inhabitants of the pueblo of any impending danger of invasion or spying on the pueblo or its immediate environs by wandering tribesmen or or enemies. Notification of possible trouble was undoubtedly transmitted by signal fires." (*1 p5)

As late as the first third of the 20th century, "Terraced Gardens" were visible at the ruins. By the 1970's, "storms and roaming cattle have eroded or otherwise obliterated much of the evidence of such areas." (*1 p14)

However, before these areas were lost, they were studied and described: "The long slope to the west of the (gardens) is suitable for flood irrigation of these plots, and the wash to the southwest forms what might be termed a diversion ditch, which would also add to the irrigating of the garden plots of the area." (*1 p14)

"Approximately a half mile to the east of the pueblo is a leveled plot, and a series of stepped-up terraces lies on the crest of a spur 180 feet long by 60 feet wide." (*1 p14)

"Gardens outlined with stones were also found." Several of these garden plots were found around the "Lookout" buildings. (*1 p14)

Older wall construction.
"Granite outcrops are numerous near the ruin, and it was from these that most of the building material was obtained." (*2 p89)

One unique aspect of the Fitzmaurice Ruin walls was the use of large stone slabs as a foundational base. (*2 p115)

A mixture of several kinds of masonry construction were utilized by the Native Americans. "Some walls were constructed of solid rocks varying in size which were...haphazardly fitted together in a sort of overlapping wedge principle. Where there were larger openings between rocks, spalls were inserted as a combination wedge and filler. A mud of local earth or clay was then applied as a mortar and veneer finish." (*1 p22)

The "various (wall) construction differences encountered (by the archeologists) clearly show that there were three, and probably more, different periods of construction of the 27-room pueblo." It seems that as time went on there was a "distinct lowering of the standards of construction when compared to those first employed." (*1 p37)

Additionally, "there is no evidence of any (doorways on the) outside walls. Thus, approach to all rooms was undoubtedly gained by access holes in the roof." (*1 p37)

The inhabitants of the Fitzmaurice Ruin were familiar with and extensively used paint on the structure. Colors included blue, green, red, orange, ochre, white, and brown-red. (*1 p55)

"In all cases the (roofing) material (was) composed of a clay or mud and decomposed granite and gravel inclusions." This was placed over brush, branches and grasses and measured up to 20 cm. thick. (*1 p22)

Some of the larger rooms had post holes for the placement of juniper trunks to help support the roof. (*1 p37)

There were also definite signs that the site was abandoned after a fire had struck. (*1 p22)

The Yavapai Indian's origin story includes a "Great Flood" that holds intriguing commonalities with the story of Noah in the Book of Genesis.

Care was taken in leveling the floors. "The building of the pueblo must have entailed considerable evacuation and terracing of rooms to make level floors." (*2 p98)

Most of the rooms had firepits in the floor. "Many are well made and are lined with clay which had become baked to a ceramic-like hardness from the many fires built in them." Some were not lined and were described as "quite crude and were certainly made with the least possible effort." (*1 p32)

"Most rooms within the pueblo contained one or more fireplaces...on the floor. These fireplaces were not located at any certain place within a room, except that none were found against a wall. Some rooms contained two or three burned areas on the floor. In many cases, the burned areas (on the) floors showed red to as much as 3.8 cm in depth, indicating that many fires had been built over extended periods of time." (*1 p37)

"Clays containing ash similar to that found at Bald (Glassford) Hill were used in pottery manufacture by the ancient inhabitants of the Fitzmaurice Ruin." (*2 p90)

The interesting history of Prescott Valley's most iconic natural feature, Glassford Hill.

All sizes of clay pots were uncovered at the site. These ranged from storage jars that were 62 cm high to some vessels that were only as wide as a man's finger. The latter was a surprise and much speculation has been voiced as to their function. (*1 p97)

In the last excavation, a total of 57,902 ceramic sherds were eventually recovered. (*1 p127)

Most of the pottery had painted designs on them with the storage jars having it on the inside and out.

"A few human and animal clay figurines...were found. The human clay figurines (were) crudely made of a course paste tempered with mica and quartz... The heads are flat on the back and a portion of clay pinched between the thumb and the finger constitutes the nose. Eyes and mouths are slits incised with a stick or fingernail." (*2 p111)

Twenty-five ornamental seashells were discovered indicating a trade network that reached to the coast. (*1 p57)

One hundred twenty-two worked bone implements were discovered. These were used as awls, punches, fleshers--even a whistle (or bird call.) Some bones were used as ornamental jewelry including beads and a ring. (*1 p61)

"Stone of every kind and description probably had the widest use of all materials. Ornaments and charms were made from both ordinary and semi-precious gem stones and an unlimited number of utilitarian items were made from all other kinds of stone." (*1 p50)

The inhabitants of the ruins had a proverbial workbench full of stone tools. Implements included axes, arrowheads, sanders, polishers, hammers, knives, choppers, reamers, gravers, grinders, drills, and digging implements. Other stone objects found were wedges, firedogs, heat deflectors, jar covers, and even paint palettes. (*1 p64-81)

The intriguing biography of Viola Jimulla, the first woman chief in America. She lead the Prescott Yavapai Tribe through one of there lowest times by relying on her Christian faith.

It is believed that since the Fitzmaurice Ruin contained such a large amount of ornamental objects (as well as utilitarian ones) that it "does indicate a fair degree of affluence for these people." (*2 p95)

Much can be learned about a people from what they leave behind.

Map of the main pueblo.
This author cannot help but think of the economic benefit it would be to the Town of Prescott Valley if the Fitzmaurice Ruin were developed much like Tuzigoot or other regional sites. Instead of tourists simply driving through PV, they would have a genuine reason to stop!

Currently the Ruin is a closed portion of Fain Park and remains untapped and undeveloped. What a benefit it would be if the weeds could be cleared; pathways laid out; and a fee station and security cameras installed. Mild restoration would be required to get the site back to its early 20th century condition. Interpretive plaques explaining the site and the culture could be erected providing Prescott Valley with a notable tourist attraction for the foreseeable future.

The economic benefit to PV would continue generation after generation. It would be like gaining an industry that never goes out of business; never goes out of style; and never moves out of town. The Fitzmaurice Ruin would become a large part of the town's identity as well as its fabric.

Indeed, it would cumulatively add to the general tourism attraction of the whole quad-city area.

Call me a dreamer.

Tourist Tip:
Tours and a knowledgeable talk about the Fitzmaurice Ruin are occasionally given by members of the Arizona Site Stewards whose duty it is to protect prehistoric and historic treasures. For information regarding tours for small groups, contact the Prescott Valley Parks and Recreation Department at 928/759-3090.

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("p" denotes the page of the volume cited.)
(*1) Excavation of Main Pueblo at Fitzmaurice Ruin--Prescott Culture in Yavapai County, Arizona; By Franklin Barnett. Museum of Northern Arizona Special Publication. Lithographed by Publishers Press, Inc. (c) 1974 Northern Arizona Society of Science and Art, Inc., Flagstaff, AZ.

(*2)"Fitzmaurice Ruin" by Louis P. Caywood. (Extract of Part 2 from "Two Pueblo Ruins in West Central Arizona" Vol. VII, No. 1 - University of Arizona Bulletin, Social Science Bulletin No. 10, 1936, Tucson, Arizona).

Both sources are available through the Yavapai County Library Network.

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