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GRAND CANYON NATURE NOTES
October 1933Volume 8, Number 7


LARGE CLIFF DWELLING By Barbara H. McKee, Grand Canyon

A WEALTH of material indicating the presense of ancient man is to be found not only on the south side of Grand Canyon but also on the North Rim and in the side canyons to the north of the Colorado River. Most of the ruins north of the river have been seen only infrequently and by few white men. Most of these men have not been archaeologists so we have today only vague stories of the things that have been seen and found. The whole area is waiting to be studied.

Not long ago I had the opportunity of visiting Powell Saddle which connects a plateau of the same name with the main part of the North Rim of Grand Canyon at a place some 30 miles west of Grand Canyon Lodge. Powell Saddle is a narrow neck of land curving downward toward its center which is at the level of the Coconino sandstone. We hiked down a trail from the Canyon rim and visited a spring of clear water a few hundred feet east of the saddle.

About a hundred yards east of the spring we came to a flat, wide platform at the base of the Coconino sandstone, the sheer, white cliff of which towered above. On this ledge had once been a settlement for we could see the outlines of numerous rooms with the stones still built up and on a large talus slope in front we found fragments of pottery.

The rooms which could be seen were laid out in the following plan:

Very likely at one time there were two stories to the building for we could see mud and small sticks plastered, in places 20 feet and more, up on the cliff and crevices were filled with mud and sand. Also, in examining one of the crevices in the cliff, we found the dessicated section of a corn cob which showed ten rows of kernels.

More rooms could very probably be shown by excavation as the heap of talus in front of the visible ones was very large. A little to one side of the house we found the traces of a large circular room, but it appeared as little more then a mound covered with a dense growth of shrubs except where its outline of rocks was visible. Very likely this was at one time a kiva.

Since this ruin was built on a flat, wide ledge so near the water and so accessible to the trail, it has been a favorite camping place for cowboys. Ranger Ed Laws who has visited the place several times in past years says that a great deal more of it was standing when he first saw it. A few years ago a prospector spent the winter near this place and pulled down many of the walls. Moving the flat slabs some hundred feet nearer the spring he built himself a small house under an overhanging rock. Thus this prehistoric dwelling has been slowly demolished.

From a superficial examination of stray pottery fragments or sherds which we picked up Mr. Louis Schellbach has estimated that this ruin belonged to the last phase of Pueblo II culture or the first phase of Pueblo III. This dates it roughly as being built and occupied somewhere between 1000 and 1200 A.D.

The following is information regarding the pottery sherds which has been supplied by Mr. Shellbach:

Number of sherds72
Number of corrugated sherds40
Number of black on white sherds19
Number of black on red sherds5
Number of plain sherds8

Plain Ware: Hand lens examination of these sherds indicates that a sand tempering was used. Two sherds in this group have a white slip. These two sherds may be parts of a black and white bowl. The sherds, however, do not show any black decorations.

Black on Red Ware: These show a fine paste with possibly a ground sherd tempering. One sherd of thin ware has decoration on the inner side of bowl. The decoration consists of fine lines. (Fig 1, b-f)

Black on White Ware: One sherd shows a corrugated outer surface while the inner surface has rather a broad black line; tempering of ground sherd material. The white slip on both the inner and outer sides is rather heavy. Twelve sherds show a sand tempering while seven show a sherd tempering of rather a fine paste. One sherd of this lot shows the black design painted on the white slip and then polished before firing. The other sherds do not indicate that the black design was polished after application. (Fig 1, c-e-g)

Corrugated Ware: Of the corrugated ware there are the straight coil and the stick indented types, All specimens of those indicate sand tempering. Some show improved coil type having a grey-white slip on inner and outer side. (Fig. 1, a-d)

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14-Oct-2011