Home > 2011 Posts > Sinagua Fantasies

Sinagua Fantasies

Sedona, Arizona, is a place I visit often. The setting is uniquely beautiful. There are more than a lifetime’s worth of gorgeous hiking possibilities. And the town is filled with great southwest art, delicious food and nice folks.

Sedona = Great scenery in every direction

Around Sedona are ruins of the Sinagua people from a period when the climate was a bit wetter. Their designs were perfect for the setting and time. Built in huge, shaded, rock alcoves with thick adobe walls, the structures have often survived well and are fascinating to explore.

A famous Sinagua ruin

As a former Marine, I was impressed right away with how clever the Sinagua were about protecting their villages. The settlements are tall, and the window openings begin quite high up. They built their granaries and cisterns inside, behind those thick walls. The walls themselves were almost fireproof and could not be quickly breached by anything less than a siege engine, which no one in the Western Hemisphere had back then. They used portable ladders that could be drawn up the smooth, near-vertical walls. And they had a flat, cleared zone in front of their tall structures that extended out beyond bowshot range. Now that was prudent security!

But be warned when you visit, there is a certain perspective through which all things Sedona-ish seem to be viewed. Every single ‘ranger’ at every Sinagua site claimed that all was calm for the Sinagua, with trade and peace until the climate changed. To prove their point, they say that no archaeological evidence of warfare has been found anywhere in the Sinagua locale.

The Devil's Bridge near Sedona

Ahem. ‘No evidence’ that is except … every part of the design that could be done with defensive warfare in mind was done that way. Without exception. No one builds like that unless they must. It’s just too much trouble.

Even after so many exposures, I’m always amazed when some folks believe that repeating a utopian fantasy often enough causes it to be true (see an earlier post, The First Rule of Magic). Personally, I’m with the Sinagua builders: make it so costly to attack my family and friends, kill us and take our stuff that talk and trade look like a great alternative, even to the most vile and rapacious ‘neighbor’.

For the Sinagua, that worked. In the end, it wasn’t bad guys that forced them to leave, it was a natural shift in climate that gave the bad guys an advantage.

  1. March 11, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Hi Dave, I stumbled upon your blog while surfing the photography tages. I’ve visited Sedona as well, and completely agree with you– it is quite the spectacular place, especially if you’re an avid hiker like myself. The Sinagua ruins are really cool to see too. Loving the red-rock landscapes!
    Thanks for sharing you post,
    – Nate

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