Crane Petroglyph Heritage Site petroglyphs. Photo courtesy of Jerry Walters.

Arizona Archaeology and Heritage Awareness Month and methods of Indigenous technologies was celebrated at the Beaver Creek Heritage Days at the Crane Petroglyph Heritage Site. The US Forest Service, Arizona Archaeology Society: Verde Valley Chapter, Verde Valley Archaeology Center & Museum, and Friends of the Forest worked together to bring back this Verde Valley tradition, returning for its first time since the Pandemic.

It was a fun and inclusive two-day event featuring engaging activities for adults, kids, and families! Attendees enjoyed rock art and blade demonstrations. Hands-on experiences included: prehistoric atlatl throwing, flint knapping, and tool technology. Attendees enjoyed prehistoric methods of cordage making, fire making, hunting technology, fiber spinning and textile weaving, creating split twig figurines. There was a special performance by the Warriorettes, a Yavapai-Apache Nation youth dance and drum group.

New insights were shared at the Crane petroglyph panel that features over 1,200 rock art images. The site is an advanced solar and lunar calendar and is the largest known petroglyph site in the Verde Valley. Information about 3D photo documentation of prehistoric sites, Ethnobotany of the region, a history of Homolovi, wilderness preservation, Native American Graves Repatriation and Protection Act (NAGPRA) compliance, American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) compliance, traditional cultural property identification, Tribal cooperative agreements, and burial agreements with Arizona State Museum and appropriate Tribes were all shared.

Beaver Creek Heritage Days is approved by the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office and the Yavapai-Apache Nation. This event commemorated the renaming of V-V Ranch to The Crane Petroglyph Heritage Site. The Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, Yavapai-Apache Nation, and Forest Service were instrumental in adopting a new name that embraces Indigenous representation.

Honanki and Palatki Heritage Sites were the largest cliff dwellings of the Red Rock country between AD 1150 – 1350. The Sinagua, ancestors of the Hopi, lived here preparing meals, raising their families, and making tools from stone, leather, and wood. Nearby they hunted for deer and rabbit, tended various crops, and gathered edible wild plants.

There are three trails at the Palatki Heritage Site. One trail goes to the Sinagua cliff dwellings, one to a view of the dwellings which is wheelchair accessible and a third that goes to the alcoves that shelter the painted symbols, or pictographs, from every native culture to ever occupy the Verde Valley. Reservations are required to visit the Palatki Site.

There are 25,000 visitors at each site every year.  Due to issues with graffiti and ongoing threat of abuse, these sites are only open to the public on fixed days and hours.  Specific areas are viewable only if there is a docent present to monitor, interpret, and educate.

Heritage site Friends of the Forest docent Jim Wilson

Long-time Friends of the Forest Docent Jim
Wilson educating visitors. Photo courtesy of Jerry Walters.

Friends of the Forest docent Cynthia Belowski shared, “I love interacting with people from all over the world and sharing the deep cultural history of the Verde Valley. In addition to sharing why these ancient treasures are important to protect for posterity, I hope our guests leave understanding their cultural significance to the native peoples of Arizona today.  It is very rewarding when you can tell — from a visitor’s thanks, questions and smiles — that you have raised someone’s awareness of our country’s rich cultural heritage.”

Docent volunteers are trained by Friends of the Forest and interact with the public at the Forest Service heritage sites.  The goal is to provide interpretation of the site for a greater visitor experience, education on site etiquette, and protect the site by monitoring for inappropriate behavior by visitors.

“Serving as a volunteer docent at this world-class petroglyph site is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Sharing insights into our area’s ancient culture with thousands of appreciative visitors from all over the world is a truly rewarding experience. Importantly, this role could not be possible without the tremendous support of the site hosts and the dedicated Friends of the Forest and Forest Service heritage site managers,” shared Jim White, Friends of the Forest volunteer.

Scheduling for docents is quite flexible and varies by individual. Many docents are part time residents who volunteer during the two to six months a year that they are in town.

David Kennedy said, “Being a volunteer docent at a heritage site has been far more rewarding than I ever expected. It’s a privilege to meet visitors from all over this country and other countries and help them understand about the Sinagua culture in the Verde Valley. The questions they come up with keep me on my toes. I’ve had to brush up on archeology, botany, geography, astronomy, photography and maybe others just to keep from getting caught flat-footed.”

Want more information about being a docent at one of the Heritage Sites? Visit Serving Sedona, written this week by Carol Dores, Friends of the Forest, appears Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News.

Crane Petroglyph Heritage Site petroglyphs and long-time Friends of the Forest Docent Jim Wilson educating visitors. Photos courtesy of Jerry Walters.