Thursday, April 10, 2014

Deer Valley Rock Art Center

    Many residents of Anthem might find it hard to believe that just 10 miles south of their community an ancient volcanic lava flow broke through the earth’s surface some 1.6 million years ago.  It flowed along the surface of the land for over 1/4 mile before cooling and creating a small mountain of volcanic basalt rock. 
     Over the ages this lava flow has weathered into a mountain of a thousand boulders.  Upon these boulders can now be found over 1500 ancient petroglyphs made by people who once made this special place their home.   This mountain today is called Hedgpeth Hill and is the major attraction of the Deer Valley Rock Art Center. 
     It was sometime after 300 B.C. that the Hohokam and Patayan people climbed over and among this boulder covered mountain that ran along the side of a small desert stream.   Using their stone tools they pecked into the desert varnish that had formed upon the boulders, leaving their pictures and designs for us to learn from and enjoy today. 
     The Deer Valley Rock Art Center has the largest concentration of ancient rock art found in the Valley of the Sun.  Here, along the western bank of what is today called Skunk Creek, ancient people left their carvings of deer, big-horned sheep, running water and various clan symbols.
     One ancient human even left a carving of a right hand as it grabbed the edge of a volcanic boulder.  Many of the man-made petroglyphs may be symbols representing an ancient spirituality.  Anthropologists believe that some of these glyphs may be as much as 5000 years old.
    The genesis of the rock art center can be found in the tremendous flooding that occurred across the Valley in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Wishing to prevent further flooding of the city, the U.S. Corp of Engineers decided to build large earthen dams across the northern parts of Phoenix.     
     One such dam, known as the Adobe Dam, was built near 35th Avenue and Deer Valley Road to control any future flooding of Skunk Creek.  The petroglyphs on the ancient volcanic basalt mountain were deemed to be a historic treasure and plans were made to protect and preserve them. 
    Through an agreement between Maricopa County, the City of Phoenix, the U.S. Corp of Engineers and the School of Human Evolution & Social Change of Arizona State University, the Deer Valley Rock Art Center opened to the citizens of Arizona in 1994.  Today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 
     The Deer Valley Rock Art Center takes its name from a large boulder covered with multiple petroglyphs, including one of two nose-to-nose facing deer.  In 2000 the City of Phoenix designated the Deer Valley Rock Art Center as a Phoenix “Point of Pride”.  Self guided and guided tours for individuals, school and adult groups are available by the family friendly and knowledgeable staff.        

     The Deer Valley Rock Art Center is located at 3711 West Deer Valley Road.    For more information about the DVRAC visit their web site at .   

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