Ancestral Puebloan Cavate Dwellings

Outer Room at Turkey Tanks with two deep inner cavate rooms

Ancient dwellings of the Hopi ancestors included several types depending on the natural resources available. The dwelling types were cavates, cliff dwellings and Pueblos. Around 700-800 years ago, the ancients lived in cavates (“CAVE-eights”) excavated into welded volcanic rocks. I visited these dwelling sites around the San Francisco Peaks to understand the relationship of our culture to the spirits of fire. Geologic events like volcanic eruptions were witnessed by the ancient ones and the stories are recounted in Hopi oral traditions today. The USFS/NPS Partnership provides excellent interpretive hikes into these sites

Trailhead Old Caves Crater

The OLD CAVES CRATER is a U-shaped crater on which 70-80 cave dwellings can be seen from the top to the bottom on the south side of the crater. It is an easy 2.4 mile round trip hike on to the crater.

Topo Map Old Caves Crater

Old Caves Crater is distinguished from New Caves Crater by the way the cavates were dug by the dwellers. At Old Caves the dwellings were dug top down. At New Caves the dwelling were dug horizontally into the volcanic rock. Some of the cavates have three or more rooms. There is a line of sight to New Caves Crater from this site.

Outer Room Old Caves Crater with entrance from top
A second Inner room Old Caves Crater
Cavate Dwellings Map Old Caves Crater*

The TURKEY TANK cavates are east of Flagstaff  under the county highway. The canyon is very picturesque with oak trees, cat tails, black volcanic rock and water cisterns. It was monsoon season and the summer storms passed throughout the day. The cavate entrances are not easily seen unless you hike along the canyon walls.

Cavate Entrance Turkey Tanks

The cavates are larger than the Old Cave dwellings and there are deep, lower level rooms inside the main outer rooms. I could easily stand inside the outer room but did not dare try to venture into the inner rooms. Pink plaster, placed by hand was evident on the walls and floor. Black soot covered the ceilings of the cavate.

Pink plaster evident on wall

Other cavate sites include nearby Walnut Canyon and the Eldon Pueblo. The ancients survived a harsh life, dwelling in the volcanic rock for a period of time. It was very humbling to know that our ancestors survived so that the next generations of indigenous peoples of the Americas are still here. Usqwali!

For anthropological information see: *Pueblo Ruins Near Flagstaff Arizona, J. Walter Fewkes, American Anthropologist, Vol 2, No. 3, Jul-Sept 1900

Roving Rangers Interpretive Hikes August 2017 Flyer



Hopi Footprints on the Americas

Creation of the Ancient Migration Paths of the Hisatsenom

On the twentieth day of the Hopi Baby Naming Ceremony, a newborn infant becomes one of the human species (homo sapiens or “wise man”). A ritual prayer is recited by the paternal godmother that sets out the life path for this perfect human being. Thus, we begin our life journey.

The Hopi people evolved throughout the centuries and forged our migration paths as laid out for us in the beginning time. We, the two-legged species, traveled with the four-legged animals with whom we could communicate. We learned how to weave, to make ropes, sandals, baskets, feather blankets and home shelters on the earth. We lived with the earth spirits deep in the land. We drank precious water poured by the six point cloud people.  We marked our footprints on the rocks as a message to others of our way finding.

Imprint of the ages

As the centuries passed we evolved from the hunter gatherer into agricultural societies and became sedentary. We cultivated the sacred corn, bean and squash. The earliest mother corn has been carbon dated on Hopi lands to 200 A.D. The “tuhisma” or talented hands begin to shape the clay into pottery. Beauty was created in our songs, ceremonies and lifeways. More travelers came and gathered at the Center of the Earth. They came from the South, West, East and the North of the Americas. These were the Hisatsenom, the “ancient ones”.

The rocks of the ages tell of these migrations.  You can understand if only you listen. We are still here.

Story & Photo Credits by MFredericks




A Rebirth of Hopi Voices


Mother Corn

U’yis muyaw, the planting moon marks the lunar cycle for the new Hopi planting season. The indigenous, drought resistant Mother Corn is reverently selected and cleaned by the women for planting by the Hopi males. A new beginning of an ancient life plan of the Americas begins anew.

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