CALIFORNIA & ARIZONA 2010 travel blog

"Archaeology is my passion." One dog's dream come true.

Poking around in the big house

Carbon dating, pshaw! Nothing beats a good sniff.

The grounds.

The outer limits.


Dear Farley,

FINALLY they hauled themselves out of the pool long enough to take an excursion to Casa Grande National Monument, which I thought was the whole reason we came here. As you know, pre-Columbian archeology is my passion, so I have been waiting for quite a while to see this place.

Casa Grande is a canine archaeologist's mecca because they actually allow dogs to walk around the ruins here -- on leash, of course, but whatever. I was able to nose the walls of the big house (casa grande, get it?) and poke around in some of the lesser ruins and it was quite a thrill, I can tell you. I did resist peeing in the corners -- although obviously every prairie dog around has been doing it for centuries -- and I learned a bunch. Lotsa good smells there, Farley, my friend. Lotta good stories.

Casa Grande National Monument is a Hohokam ruin. The people were here for about 1000 years, peaking around 1350CE and gone by 1450. (By sniffing, even a pomeranian could tell they didn't leave until 1453 but I didn't come here to embarrass anyone, so I didn't try point it out.)

The site wasn't "discovered" until the late 1600s when a Spanish missionary came across it. And it wasn't until the 1890s that the government took an interest in protecting it. By then, weather and souvenir hunters had taken a lot, resulting in archaeologists' inability to verify, they way they like to, the function of various structures and clues about daily life. (There's even graffiti on the walls from the 1880s.) The place is made of a kind of mud (mixed with other stuff, but it's still mud) so of course it was eroding like a cat on fire. They finally constructed a roof over the place in the 1930s, but -- you should pardon the expression -- it's pretty much a dog's breakfast now. Still, archaeology is all about working with what you have -- and who knows that better than me?

The park people are all over the "mystery" of this place. Even though they know that the big house was built to take advantage of celestial events like equinoxes and moon phases, without good scents, or for them, verifiable data, they refuse to draw conclusions about what it was used for. It's the biggest pre-historic structure in America, so it wasn't the kennel, you can bet on that. "Mystery", woof woof. Please.

The other mystery they like to toss around is why the Hohokam disappeared. Now, I know I don't have a dogtorate or anything, but this is a desert, so canals or no canals -- and they are famous for their canals and farming -- after a thousand years, perhaps the dryness and lack of water gets a teensy bit old? Just a guess.

Flood? Drought? Tired of the neighbours? All possibilities. So this is where the sniffing comes in. I think you, me, and a couple of others (know any reliable poodles?) could blast this archeologically elitist view of things wide open. You can get right in the corners here, man. I smelled some stuff you wouldn't believe! And this place is huge! A whole square mile. There are ball court remains and lesser compounds and old canals and probably stuff the regular archaeologists don't even know about. And I'm not even talking about all the ground squirrels and roadrunners. We could have a blast. And probably get puglished.

Anyway, I'm going to use my mind powers to get to some more ruins and see if I'm onto something here. You know that thing that we can do where we just stare at the people without blinking until they give us a cookie? If you don't take the cookie, but just keep staring, and make a kind of subtle growling noise in your throat like you're trying to communicate, it drives them crazy and you can get them to do almost anything.

I'll let you know how it turns out. I think we can blow this carbon-dating thing wide open.

Say arf to all the kids at the Berkeley dog park.

Bow wow,


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