By Cindy Gresser

The year was 1935.  At the Fair Grounds there was a giant pile of stone and debris that would make excellent base fill for roadways and foundations around the growing City of Prescott.

Yavapai County Immigration Officer Grace Sparkes, who also was a member of the Yavapai Archaeological Society, secretary for the Chamber of Commerce, and was associated with many other organizations, heard the rock pile was an ancient ruin.  By now the Smoki Museum had been constructed, and the new museum's curator, Malcolm Cummings (son of famous archaeologist Byron Cummings, director of the Arizona State Museum), was asked to go over to the Rodeo/Fair Grounds and check out some weird rocks found in the rubble.

Malcolm went to investigate. According to Perry Haddon, a steam-shovel operator – Mr. Brown – stopped the steam-shovel and tractor when he spotted rocks that looked like heads, specifically a mountain sheep ram's heads. As Malcolm more carefully excavated the effigies, he found four fetishes around each head. One ram faced in one direction – east - and the other faced west. They were positioned outside a doorway of a large structure, with some walls up to 24 inches thick. The room floor was hard packed with red clay, and pottery sherds were found in abundance. Most of the pottery was determined to be decorated Prescott Culture grayware referred to as Black-on-grey.  Metates (grinding stones that were used to prepare food) were also found on the floor.  There were no rooms inside the walled enclosure, which could mean it might have been a fortification against an unknown enemy. Perhaps it was a place of worship as the ram’s heads and the fetishes were so carefully placed. Pithouse structures were found around the perimeter which might imply the room was part of an occupation site. We will probably never know for sure. Only one-third of the structure remained by the time Malcolm Cummings did this research.

Typical of the times, workers at the excavation each took one of the fetishes home. Mr. Brown tucked his away until he gave it to Perry Haddon. Last year, Mr. Haddon gifted it, along with a few other objects, to The Smoki Museum. The ram effigies had already been brought to the museum by Malcolm Cummings.

So, big deal! The Smoki Museum has some rocks that look like mountain sheep. But why? Mountain sheep have not been highly prevalent in this area for a very long time.  The Yavapai People have no stories related to mountain sheep or about these effigies, although they probably hunted them. Could there have been some kind of Hohokam influence in Prescott Culture times between AD 900 and 1200? Some early archaeologists argued the Hohokam did not travel any further north than the Agua Fria area, other than for trade.

Today, some Native People who embrace mountain sheep include the Tohono O’odham.  To them, the mountain sheep represents the wind, and therefore change. Did the people that placed those ram’s heads outside the walls of their structure know that change was about to come to their lands and they needed to prepare?

Not too long ago, a museum supporter visited the museum.  He stood at the case containing the ram’s heads, and removed a crystal on a chain from his pocket. He placed it over one of the heads, and it began to move in a circular pattern. He stopped it, went to the other one, and it did the same thing – in bigger circles. Repeated attempts produced the same motions.  A magnet suspended over them will also move. The effigies seem to have magnetic properties. Perhaps this property is why the stones were selected to shape into the heads.

The Smoki Museum has its very own “Mystery at the Museum.” We invite everyone to come and see these remarkable pieces in our collection, as well as a very large collection of Prescott Culture pottery on display.

Perhaps these ram’s heads, representing wind and change, set the course for The Smoki Museum long before our philosophic changes in 2001.

Join Cindy Gresser, Executive Director of the Smoki Museum, as she provides a fascinating look at the unique history of the Smoki on Saturday, February 25 at 2 p.m. in the West Gallery of the Lawler Exhibit Center at the Sharlot Hall Museum.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles to dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com for information.