Casa Grande Ruins

Half an hour East from I-10, in the town of Coolidge, AZ in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, are the Casa Grande ruins. Originally built by the Tohono O’odoham Indians in the 1200s, the “big house) (Casa grande) was a phenomenal structure. Most likely, it was built even earlier, and completed over time. It was built without architectural tools–no cranes, no digging machines, and no trees or cement to build with.

Inside the Casa Grande

Underneath this part of the desert is a layer of caliche–a cement-like mud that was used at the building material. The timbers in the structure are pine and hardwood, and come from more than 50 miles away. Because the Hohokam (literally, “those who vanished,” belonging to the larger family of Tohono O’odham) didn’t have horses, no one knows how the trees were cut and hauled to this spot.

The building is about 30 feet high, and only a small part of it is left. The rest has been beaten back into dust under the sun, wind and rain of the desert. In the last 100 years, various roofs were built over the ruins to protect it from further weathering.

The ruins are about 30 feet tall and protected from sun, wind and rain by a roof.

Today,when we were there, we watched world-champion hoop dancer Tony Duncan in a series of amazing moves. His dance represents elements of nature–butterfly (seen in the video below), rattlesnake, and eagle. After each segment, Duncan dances out of the hoops and represents the entire world spinning by raising the connected hoops over his head. He danced intricate dances with grace and ease–only when I saw how hard he was sweating afterward could I appreciate the effort and concentration that goes into this complicated dance.

There is a bit of irony in Duncan, who belongs to the Apache clan, dancing on the Tohono O’odoham ruins. The Tohono O’odoham word for Apache is “Ohb,” which is also their word for “evil.” The two tribes were rivals for water, travel space, cooler mountain land and food for centuries.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer, artist, and life- and creativity coach. She is learning how to make videos. She needs to work plenty to get it right.

I’m participating in WordPress’s Postaday2011 challenge. Having posted more than 1,000 posts in three years, I will commit to posting 5 times a week. That’s plenty.

2 thoughts on “Casa Grande Ruins

  1. I’ve never been to the ruins, but have seen the hoop dancers many times. Aren’t they amazing? I love that there are still people carrying on that tradition.

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