Archaeological Investigations at Petroglyph Sites in the Painted Rock Reservoir Area, Southwestern Arizona

Author(s): Henry D. Wallace

Year: 1989


As early as 1749, European visitors to the Painted Rocks region commented on the rock art they observed. The Painted Rock Reservoir, dam, and the mountains to the south, are all named after a large petroglyph site along the main east-west trail through the area, the Painted Rocks site (S:16:1 [note that unless otherwise designated, all site numbers in this document are assigned by the Arizona State Museum and all are prefaced by "AZ"]). While most of the early attention on rock art focused on this site, the information presented here will illustrate the significance of rock art in the cultural inventory of the region as a whole.

This report is concerned with providing a first look at the range of rock art resources in the Painted Rock Reservoir area and evaluating their relationship to the cultural and natural environment. Forty-eight petroglyph sites are described and illustrated, 46 of which had not been previously recorded. Seven of these sites were intensively recorded and are treated as test cases for preliminary comparative studies. A minimum of 1,070 petroglyph panels and 1,926 petroglyph design elements (based on. an average of 1.8 design elements per panel at the Phase 1 sites) are estimated to be present at the recorded sites. The total count at these sites could easily exceed 2,400 design elements.

The research documented in this report was conducted under U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) Contract number DACW 09-86-D-0034, Delivery Order 14 in cooperation with Infotec Research, Inc. The Institute for American Research (IAR) was contacted in May of 1987 by Infotec, and a contract awarded by the COE in August of that year. The Phase 1 portion of the contract was specifically oriented towards the survey of a specified area at the southeastern tip of the Gila Bend Mountains focused on sites T:14:8 and T:14:3 3, and an intensive recording of the rock art within that area. This research is detailed in Chapter 5 of this report. During negotiations over the Phase 1 contract, the IAR had recommended that the COE consider the regional context of the two specified sites and to assess management responsibilities to other rock art sites in the Painted Rock Reservoir area. In response to these concerns, two amendments to the original contract were made in 1988, resulting in the development of the Phase 2 petroglyph survey described in Chapter 4 and an agreement to produce the descriptive report seen here. The completion of additional work in the region and preparation of a final interpretive report remain as future goals for this research.

This report represents an additional step towards the development of a regional data base for rock art analysis in southern Arizona and it is the first such attempt to view the Painted Rock Reservoir and vicinity from a subregional perspective. The Painted Rock area is of particular archaeological interest due to current concerns in the discipline over cultural boundaries and frontiers, with its blend of Hohokam and Patayan cultures, and the wealth of archaeological sites including tens and perhaps hundreds of rock art sites. This study will provide a descriptive summary of the research conducted under the Phase 1 and 2 portions of the COE contract. In addition, a critical review of the prehistoric settlement pattern data for the region and a geological overview are provided. The Historic Properties Management Plan (Dart et. al 1989) provides additional contextual and historical data pertinent to the information presented here.

The report is organized as follows: Chapter 2 considers the environmental conditions of the reservoir area. Chapter 3 provides a critical review of the culture history in the region. Chapter 4 presents the methods, scope and results of the Phase 2 petroglyph survey, including the predictive model for petroglyph site location developed for the study and information on newly discovered rock art, geoglyph, rock circle, trail, rock shelter, and habitation sites. Basic site data gathered from the Phase 1 investigations are also incorporated into this chapter so that the reader may refer to this section and find a summary of all recorded rock art sites in the region. Chapter 5 discusses the methods and results of intensive archaeological investigations at a series of petroglyph sites at the southeast tip of the Gila Bend Mountains, including two sites with a total of over 961 prehistoric petroglyph designs. Chapter 6 provides a regional perspective on the management concerns for rock art resources in the Painted Rock area. The effects of vandalism and inundation from the Painted Rock Reservoir are considered, research priorities are highlighted, and management recommendations are made. Several appendixes are also provided to assist the reader. Appendix A presents a photographic sample of the rock art and related features recorded at the Phase 1 and 2 sites. Appendix B presents summary site descriptions for those sites recorded during this study. Data tables and recording forms are provided in Appendixes C and D.

Cite this Record

Archaeological Investigations at Petroglyph Sites in the Painted Rock Reservoir Area, Southwestern Arizona, 5. Henry D. Wallace. 1989 ( tDAR id: 448446) ; doi:10.48512/XCV8448446

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -113.177; min lat: 32.938 ; max long: -112.575; max lat: 33.213 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Desert Archaeology, Inc.

Contributor(s): Allen Dart; James P. Holmund

Prepared By(s): Institute for American Research

Submitted To(s): INFOTEC Resources Inc.; US Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Planning Section Los Angeles, Califorina

Record Identifiers

Delivery Order(s): 14

Contract Number(s): DACW 09-86-D-0034

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