By CLAUDETTE SIMPSON History Editor
There are some wonderful stories about prehistoric discoveries in Arizona in early day newspaper clippings. Some of the stories are believable and some are not. But all stir the imagination.
A story dated 1911 told about a farmer, Peter Marx of Walnut Creek, who dug up a “skeleton of a prehistoric human giant on his farm several weeks ago.”
The article said Marx had been deluged with letters and visitors, including a couple from the Smithsonian Institute, who were interested in those portions of the human frame that were intact, particularly the skull, which indicated that the giant was of such abnormal size as to be beyond comprehension as that of a human being.
In 1901, while workmen were digging for sewer connections in West Prescott, they unearthed the skeleton of a giant, an article reported. The supposition was that the skeleton was an Indian. It was 6 feet 6 inches long.
The Prescott Journal Miner reported, in 1898, about a find along Oak Creek. John Love of Flagstaff spent part of each year exploring Oak Creek. “He discovered an ancient burying ground from which he dug up over fifty skeletons, and a very large amount of ancient pottery…. One of the skulls unearthed was a great curiosity and had evidently belonged to a human freak of the ancients who inhabited that country.
“It measured eighteen inches from the point of the jaw or chin to the top of the skull. The jawbone was fully four inches wide and the skull alone might easily be mistaken for that of some animal. As the bones of the body, however, were found with it, Mr. Love says there can be no mistake about its belonging to a human being. Two tusks of unusual size protrude from one of the jaws, but otherwise, the teeth are those of a human.”
A newspaper clipping dated 1882 reported the find of another giant. The skeleton was found by “Uncle Ike Bradshaw” while excavating some earth near one of his mining claims west of Prescott. The article said the bones of the human being were “mammoth in size. The thigh bone and ribs were in a fair state of condition and double the size of the ordinary man of the 19th century.
“The bones above mentioned were found in an earthen coffin made of material similar to the pottery so profusely scattered all over Arizona. This is the first instance that we have heard of where a coffin has been found, although it is possible that the people who lived here two or three hundred, or perhaps a thousand years ago, were so far civilized as to use earthen caskets for the burial of their dead.”
Many of the old-time articles commented on the civilization of the ancient people. As prehistoric irrigation systems, dwellings, and artifacts were discovered, writers began to speculate on the intelligence of the long-gone people.
One writer began his article: “That Arizona was inhabited before the dawn of history, and by a people, perhaps two races of people, well advanced in the arts of civilization, is beyond question.”
“…By far the most interesting remains of this people are their network of canals which prevail through all the valleys of the Territory. The longest is the one tapping the Gila river and which supplied with water the ancient city, now only marked by one standing building. This is the Casa Grande, about which so much has been written….”
The writer told about another ancient city, “with a population of no less than 500,000. For miles and miles the mounds, in perfectly regular order, tell the tale of houses destroyed by the ravages of time and of a magnificence not excelled today….Phoenix was built on the ruins of this ancient city the cliff and over the frail wall of so high a structure without mechanical appliances equal to those of the present time.” Here’s a 1906 story about Montezuma Castle. Believe it or not. It was written by D.D. McDonald. In 1904 McDonald and a friend named Jim discovered the cliff dwellings, “while chasing a grizzly-bear that we had wounded.” In May, 1905, they decided to go back and investigate the ruins. “Jim and I crossed the fertile Verde Valley and rode on up the sloping hills toward the cliff dwellings. Our mustangs were fresh, and we made good time, arriving at the base of the huge cliffs, along the precipitous sides of which the cliff dwellings were hanging like huge swallows’ nests, at sundown.” After camping for the night, the two men began to examine the dwellings. They had a prospecting pick and other light tools, a half-inch rope and candles. They examined many of the rooms, then they discovered an aperture leading into the mountain.
“Lighting a candle…Jim led the ‘way into the opening, and I followed closely upon his heels. The opening led straight ahead for a distance of perhaps fifty feet, when it suddenly opened into a cavern of huge dimensions. “Carefully examining the cavern, we were surprised to find that it presented the appearance of having been but recently occupied, and marveled at the state of preservation of the articles found in the cave. He described a table cut from stone. On the table were earthen jars filled with various articles of food, including large beans, honey, a pone of bread of coarse texture. “Alongside the wall, hanging from a wooden peg, we found the carcass of an animal resembling a goat. The meat was fresh, and did not even smell musty. We could hardly believe the evidence of our eyes when we found these articles in such a state of preservation.” Exploring more, they discovered several tunnels branched out from the main cavern. They followed the largest one, crawling on hands and knees.
“…we proceeded carefully for perhaps another hundred feet, when we suddenly came into another cavern, larger, apparently, than the first one. Here, again, we were mystified to find the signs of habitation.”
In this cavern, they found faggots of wood and a large piece of meat which had apparently been cooked a few hours before. They felt chilly and decided to build a fire. The smoke was drawn straight upward through a tiny aperture. They rested and talked things over. McDonald I wanted to go back to camp, cook a meal, and return to the cavern later. Jim agreed, but wanted to explore another opening which led off at right angles from the cavern. So McDonald decided to rest until Jim returned.
“I must have dropped off to sleep shortly after Jim left me, for I was suddenly brought to the realization of my surroundings by hearing shouts which seemingly sprang from the ground about me. I recognized Jim’s voice, and realized that he was calling for help. I was struck with horror at the sound of his voice, so extreme was the fear it expressed. My blood turned cold, my heart leaped to my throat, and every hair in my head stood straight up. The sounds drew nearer, and 1 discerned that they came from the tunnel into which Jim had disappeared before I dozed off into dreamland.
“”They are after me! they are after me! were the words that I made out, and then I heard the words ‘Chiff dwellers!’ My God! was I awake or was I still sleeping and in the throes of a horrible nightmare? I knew that I was awake and that danger was near; danger of a hitherto unknow kind. I knew that Jim was also in danger and possibly at that moment being rent limb, from limb.” “…Jim’s head appeared through the mouth of the tunnel. His face was drawn with terror and his breath came in gasps. As he entered, he straightened up and. unable to speak, beckened me to follow him from the uncanny place.”
The two men fled toward an opening which they mistook for the one that led them into the cavern. They crawled, scrambled and ran while”close behind us came the horde of animals, squealing and emitting harsh ejaculations almost human.”
They emerged into a vast arena “which was almost as light as day….High above us we could see the clear sky. The place was a deep well of gigantic proportions, made by nature. In less time than it takes to tell it. the horde of creatures burst into the arena, and we saw that it was a band of live cliff dwellers. The little. creatures were about three feet in height, and were strongly build. They were male and female, old and young. The men were armed with clubs…. The creatures showed their teeth and snarled and snarled and snapped like mad dogs. Foam flashed as their long teeth met with a ring.”
The creatures leaped at the men as though to tear them to pieces. Weaponless, Jim and McDonald ran through the horde, kicking and dodging, until they reached the tunnel and made their way back to the large cave. In their haste, they entered another tunnel and found a broad underground valley, which had a mysterious source of light. The valley had a murky little stream of water, which they followed, and came upon a fmall village where three nude women were bathing in the stream.
“When the women saw us, the screamed with fright. and hastened into their houses. Their nude bodies, which were covered with hair, resembled gorillas more than human beings.
The men rushed through the village, followed a path and eventually found themselves in the full glare of the sun. They had come out in another dwelling. “Hastily descending the cliffs, we reached the level ground several hundred feet below. We were almost dead with fatigue and fright, but felt thankful for our miraculous deliverance from what had appeared to be certain death.
“As we stood gazing at the cliff dwellers’ walls far above us, we saw little heads thrust through the opening, and the ungrateful hosts swarmed out upon the walls of their fort, shrieking defiance at us. “…We soon reached our animals, packed up our camping utensils and left the place.”
- The Courier – Jun 18, 1985 pg 13