Sinagua Style Sky-Boxes

Narrow ledges served as both pathways and playgrounds for the Sinagua people during their 100 year stay in Walnut Canyon.  Walking to the neighbors on a starless night would have been quite an adventure as would have been managing a tottering toddler, but their homes, built into the recesses of Walnut Canyon’s cliffs, provided both protection (from the elements, wildlife and enemies) as well as access to essential food and water. From their cave homes, the Sinaguas could monitor and prepare for approaching strangers. Yet directly above them was the flatter land of the canyon rim where they could grow beans, squash and drought-resistant corn and hunt deer. Six hundred feet below, Walnut Creek provided precious water for part of the year. Good water conservation and storage, supplemented by snow melt in the winter allowed the Sinaguas to live in relative comfort in the semi-arid climate.

The cramped cliff residences brought to mind primitive arena style sky-boxes -minus the plush seating and catered meals. Built by the Sinagua women from limestone rocks and gold clay, the walled cave homes were finished with a clay plaster. Situated to insulate, shelter and shade, the rooms had differing purposes. The larger rooms were most likely housing, and the many smaller rooms would have been used for storage. Children probably didn’t need much prompting to “go outside and play” with such cramped living quarters.

Within 100 years of their arrival, the Sinaguas moved on, eventually integrating, it is thought, into the Hopi tribe. Why they left is addressed by theories ranging from the ecological to the religious. What they left behind is more tangible: it is essentially a cliff side memorial to the men, women and children who once made Walnut Canyon their home.

Updated from May 19, 2010.


Flagstaff Things To Do

8 Comments to Sinagua Style Sky-Boxes

  1. Was your trip to the cliff dwellings part of an organized tour? Or is it more casual — more of a self-guided tour adventure?

  2. We just grabbed a brochure and wandered on down, Delmer. I’m not sure if it was the weather or that Walnut Canyon seems to be less well known -but we pretty much had the trail to ourselves that day!

  3. It’s always so interesting reading your posts, Heather. I’m learning so much every visit, I’m here.

    Thanks for sharing your great pictured information.

  4. Very nice…. Lots of great information and things to ponder. I can’t imagine what it was like on moving day. I love your sky box analogy. 🙂

  5. Hmmm, the women built the homes? And the men were doing what? Although it was probably the women who thought to bring color into the home.

  6. Asep

    My God, the place is so amazing. I like it. but is is too far from me . What’s too bad ! come to my blog. I might write something about you. May I ?

  7. Thanks Susanne. The ancient cultures really grab my imagination. It’s a perspective thing. I like clean floors -the Sinaguas probably felt quite blessed to have dirt floors…
    Intrepid: Yep. I doubt the Sinaguas were looking for the dessert cart and refills on their drinks. The whole live-in-a-cliff thing caught me. Kind of a tree house thing minus the tree.
    Shelley: I know… Wondered about that. Didn’t find any further info but assume the guys were busy protecting and hunting? Probably a fine motor skills sort of thing. And yes, the decor colors had a feminine sort of artistry to them. Electrical outlets would have been nice, but the colors were indeed lovely.
    Asep: Fascinating isn’t it? I’m on my way to your site… now!

  8. AVA

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