Monday, January 28, 2013

Tuzigoot National Monument

Desert grassland surrounding the Tuzigoot ruins.  National Parks website photo.
When it comes to living off the land as the ancient Sinagua Native Americans did, Tuzigoot National Monument near Cottonwood, Arizona has it all.  Landscape diversity is essential when it comes to finding the products essential for life and Tuzigoot is especially rich when it comes to the landscape.  Think about it.  If you were to live off the land and not be required to wonder around searching for things constantly you would need a variety of different types of habitats that support a variety of different types of plants and materials necessary for life.  You would need food, building products for shelter, material for clothing, and water at least.  At Tuzigoot, all of these things are highly concentrated in a relatively small area. 

If you visit Tuzigoot National Monument you can see four major habitats that would have provided nearly everything the ancient Sinagua's would have needed within about 50 acres, which is about the size of a very small farm.  Tuzigoot is located in the desert grasslands of the Upper Sonoran Desert.  The desert grasslands surrounding these ruins would have provided yucca plants which provided some fiber and some food for the Native Americans.  Food would have been in the form of plants such as cacti fruits that could have been gathered or animals for hunting.  The desert grasslands are the least productive habitats though of this area.  Even more productive would have been the mesquite and acacia bosque downslope and closer to the river and wetland.  This thick brushy habitat grows where soil moisture is higher than in the grasslands and where the river has deposited deep soils.  The mesquite trees provide huge amounts of food in the form of mesquite beans every summer.  These bean pods were ground-up and made into cakes.  Mesquite wood also provided materials for building and tools.  The deep soils of the mesquite bosque are also likely where farming took place.  Of course, farming in these areas provided food mostly in the form of corn, beans and squash, but it also provided cotton to make clothing.  The mesquite bosque was also a great place for animals to hide and was therefore very good for hunting. 
Tavasci Marsh. Photo from National Parks website.
Slightly down slope from the bosque two extremely important habitats can be found.  The first is the large marsh.  The marsh is today known as the Tavasci Marsh and is dense with grassy wetland plants.  The marsh would have provided essential habitat for all kinds of animals that came to it for both water and food, both of which were scarce in the surrounding desert grasslands.  The Native Americans would have used the marsh as a hunting area as well as an area to gather food from plants.  For example, the cattails in the marsh provide huge amounts of potato-like food in their root systems.  Lastly, the perennial flowing Verde River would have provided trees for building materials, water to drink and for watering plants, and wildlife for eating.  Across all of these habitats there of course can be found an abundance of rocks that the Sinagua used for building. 

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