I Spy from Sky High


Aside from its 7000 foot elevation and lack of community garage sales (or garages, for that matter), it was still a different sort of neighborhood.  While I might glance across my street to admire lush landscaping or to see if the neighbor who occasionally rides to my lawn’s rescue on a John Deere lawnmower is headed my way, Walnut Canyon tenants watched the inhabitants of their cliff side community for more serious considerations.

The Sinagua people’s version of the neighborhood watch was an ongoing monitoring of cross-canyon villages.  Awareness lowered the probabilities of surprises in a place where the unexpected was unlikely to be a positive event.  A cliff side perch allowed for controlled access and a passive defense.  It was community living at arms length and with a roughly 600 foot drop-off in between.

Water could be found far below.  Sometimes.  Water storage was critical as the dry season was desert dry —the Spanish words sin and agua translate to “without water.”  Food was hunted, gathered and grown on the relatively fertile soil of the cliff rims above.  Observing the neighbors in 1125 AD was more about computing essential survival information than today’s mundane curb check to verify trash collection day.

The cliff dwellings: Sinagua Style Sky-boxes

The lifestyle: Just a Wild Guess?


More album photos: Heather Dugan Creative on Facebook

Flagstaff Things To Do

10 Comments to I Spy from Sky High

  1. In some ways, these places remind me of a monastery – typically in a very remote place but well-planned for food, water, safety and community.

  2. Those canyons and cliffs are amazing. The anwers to your cassava question is that it’s a root vegetable like a potato and bland.

  3. The information you provide never ceases to amaze me, and the great photos leaves nothing to the imagination.

  4. Great photos and post, Heather! I can imagine how hard it was to keep water handy while living up so high!Water is heavy. And to think I grow uncomfortable when the electric is off for a couple days.

    Good luck on that novel. 😀

    Blessings, Nancy

  5. This is actually fascinating. Look forward to the next part.

    Sometimes I wish I could live in a cave on a cliff.

  6. Interesting post.

  7. I’d not known that the cliff dwellers made use of the cliff tops for food gathering and had always assumed they’d drag it up from below. Bringing it down from the above would be a bit easier, I suppose. Still, it’s no trip through the Drive-Thru.

  8. Very nice post, Heather!

  9. This is so much fun looking at your photos. Thank you. I was also fascinated to hear how they use the rooftop for gardening. Maybe that’s where they get the idea today. We learn so much from our ancestors.

  10. Mark: Interesting comparison. A remote location does tend to narrow the focus to physical and spiritual “essentials”.
    Fly Girl: Thanks :- ) Funny that you mentioned the cassava a day after I read about it (great book, BTW).
    Donald: The unexpected delights are often the best. Walnut Canyon National Memorial was an excellent “Plan B”. And, thanks!
    JJ: The cliff dwellings do make some of our necessities look a little luxurious. I’d have to say that I was born in the right century!
    One of The Guys: The adventure aspect of a cave home is very appealing. In the long term though, I think I’d be looking to add shower facilities.
    Thanks Rainfield and Susanne!
    Delmer: That surprised me too, but dropping vs hauling would have to have been more efficient. Wonder how long we could handle that sort of living…
    Shelley: The cliff rim was still a bit of a climb from some of the dwellings, but it’s interesting that they were both sheltered and sustained by the same cliff. And yes, why waste roof space? Wish I could put a garden on mine!

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