Almost invisible from the creek below, these ruins at once convey the
sense of an early mine. What was being mined? Hematite -- an oxide of
iron that can be used as a red pigment.
The cliffs into which this structure are built are rich in the reddish, soft,
crumbly mineral. There are also bands of yellowish iron oxides -- goethite
and limonite. Archaeologists (some, anyway) classify these ruins as being
built by the Salado Culture, and the occupants here most likely traded the bright
red and yellow pigments far and wide within the well-populated Salt River (Rio Salado)
Basin of central Arizona.
They were constructed around 700 years ago, but how long these rocks had been
providing color for people is another question. The of the Phoenix, Casa Grande,
and Tucson areas used such pigments in decorating some of their structures, such as the
Big House (Casa Grande), near the Gila River. Whether that pigment came from here or
not is open to question, but since this place is not too far away from Casa Grande, it
seems highly possible.
See also our section on the Hohokam of the Phoenix