BLACK CANYON ROCK SHELTER AND SURROUNDING APACHE AND YAVAPAI SITES NEAR HEBER, ARIZONA
Pottery was found in the rock shelter that has been identified by local experts as both Apache Plain and Tizon
Wiped, which is a Yavapai type. This is not too surprising in that this rock shelter is near the boundaries of these
two groups and, as Gifford noted some time ago, the two groups intermarried.
LOCALITY 1

Locality 1 is situated across the canyon so that the site is east facing, as are most such sites. Here a sherd scatter, seemingly representing two
vessels, was discovered along with a piece of expedient ground stone. The pottery was luminescence dated to the 1700s:

Several new protohistoric/historic localities were identified based upon pottery present or other diagnostic artifacts or features. All of these are in the
vicinity of Black Canyon Rock Shelter suggesting that they are all related, perhaps representing use by the same or related groups or represent specialized
activities that also included use of the rock shelter for short-term habitation.
LOCALITY 2
LOCALITY 3
LOCALITY 4
APACHE PLAIN, STRAWBERRY VARIETY
TIZON WIPED
At the same rock shelter but a few meters to the south we discovered
a feature in another small overhang. A structure outline is visible in
this small space that was not included in the original excavation.
Testing may reveal evidence of an intact "house" with diagnostic or
dateable artifacts.
APACHE PLAIN
A projectile point recently found near the rock shelter is similar to a number encountered
during excavation (see below). These types of side-notched arrow points are widespread and
although they are found among the Apache they were not exclusively made by them. Such
points are also found on sites thought to be Yavapai, so stylistically they are not particularly
diagnostic unless the suble aspects of their manufacture are considered. It is also useful to
consider that the Apache and other mobile groups picked up points they found and reused
them as projectiles or as tools and so it is not uncommon to find the points of other groups on
mobile group sites. This requires caution when assigning cultural affiliation on the basis of
points, which tended to be used off site anyway (shot through the air), and were expected to
be lost and used in contexts other than habitation sites.
The rock shelter is visible between the trees, where it overlooks
the verdant valley a couple hundred meters below.
An excavator's drawing of one of the temporary hut ("gowah" in
Western Apache language) outlines found on the surface inside the
rock shelter. This is probably one of the Apache or Yavapai houses
that is contemporaneous with the pottery. Mixon referred to them
as representing the "Yavapai occupation," owing largely to its
geographic placement relative to historical distributions of Yavapai
versus Apache and the presence of Tizon Wiped. But Apachean
artifacts are also present.
Several radiocarbon dates were obtained from the fill.
They were carefully selected so as not to encounter the
"old wood problem." Our analysis of the provenience of
these dates indicates that relatively discrete late units can
be defined.
THE MATERIAL ON THIS PAGE IS COPYRIGHTED AND SHOULD BE APPROPRIATELY CITED (C) 2007-2008, Deni Seymour
An expedient groundstone slab metate was made on a flat
unshaped piece of locally available stone. The surface is
mostly obscured by lichen but the grinding fascets are
unmistakable.
This is the Plainware sherd that was luminescence
dated. Not surprisingly it has characteristics that are
reminiscent of both Yavapai and Apache pottery.
Flat or pinched lips on straight or slightly outcurving rims are common for Apache pottery.
Perforators (left) and formally shaped bifacial knives (right) are found in many Apache
contexts, especially those that were used for a sufficiently long period of time to
accumulate debris. Both of these tool forms are present on Cerro Rojo complex (ancestral
Apache) sites throughout southern and western New Mexico. This particular style of
perforator--on an ovate flake with retouch on one or more margins to form and
excentuate the projection--has been found on Reservation-period Mescalero sites in
southern New Mexico and on earlier sites. Knives are widespread and are usually found
in fragmentary form. This one was jammed under a rock with only its end exposed. It
therefore can be subjected to residue analysis once funding is obtained for such studies.
These types of analyses will tell us what this tool was used for.
Pottery with a distinctly wiped surface is
considered characteristic of many
protohistoric and historic groups, including
the Apache.
NEW LOCALITIES IN THE VICINITY OF BLACK CANYON ROCK SHELTER
Artifacts are scattered in the foreground.
This sherd on the left takes on the characteristically thick, fine paste and limited or sorted
inclusions, brown, and deeply wiped or almost scored surface of Tizon Wiped.
Again, nestled amidst the rocks and on the sunny flats in front is a light scatter of diagnostic artifacts. The pottery seems to be Tizon but the artifacts
are characteristic of the Apache in other portions of the southern Southwest.
Locality 3 is distinguished by its placement on a
bench just below the top of the ridge. It overlooks the
other localities in the valley, across the way from the
rock shelter. Placed on a rocky ledge the site consists
of a cobble- and boulder-rimmed structure that is
quite substantial compared to many structural
features. Positioned to take advantage of the
morning sun, the feature seems sufficient to
withstand colder temperatures, suggesting this may
have been used during the colder months.
A brown chert flake sports a stepped platform.
Locality 4 is situated around a large boulder that
would have provided protection from the elements
and would have shielded occupants from view.
Pottery and flaked stone are relatively abundant
suggesting this location was used repeatedly.
Excavation may reveal a hut outline.
(color altered from lighting conditions)
(color altered from lighting conditions)
Black Canyon Rock Shelter is near Heber on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. The
site was excavated by an avocational archaeologist Ben Mixon, in 19xx, as part of an
Arizona Archaeological Society project. At the time the site was believed to have been
looted to the degree that it had no additional research value. The resulting data suggest
the contrary. One of the most interesting aspects of this site relates to the late Apache
and/or Yavapai occupation. This was recognized by the excavators and they noted three
'gowah" (Western Apache for structure or wickiup) rings on the surface inside the shelter.
Artifacts also indicate the presence of late historic mobile occupants.
The site was completely excavated. No cultural fill remains but
reconstructed walls are visible under the overhang.
Rock art (pictographs and petroglyphs) are
visible in the interior of the rock shelter. This
deeply incised style on the left may be
indicative of the Yavapai, according to work by
Peter Pillis.
APACHE PLAIN, RIM ROCK VARIETY
POTTERY
PROJECTILE POINTS FOUND IN THE ROCK SHELTER
The projectile points found in the rock shelter consist of the side-notched and triangular arrow points shown here. A fairly high number of dart
points were also recovered. Previous researchers have typed these points, assigning many of them cultural affiliation. This information has been
included here in the way the points are grouped but these groupings should not be taken as definitive, as the cultural assignments are tentative. n
fact, many of these late points would be at home in the southern Southwest, among Apachean groups.
CULTURALLY DIAGNOSTIC STONE TOOLS FOUND IN THE ROCK SHELTER
A paper was presented on this rock shelter at the 2006 Mogollon Conference and a paper/report is being
prepared that includes a reanalysis of the evidence. The following figures and notes are from these efforts.
IS THERE AN OCCUPATIONAL HIATUS IN THE AREA?
Culture histories for the area just above the rim on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests refer to an occupational hiatus. This gap occurs between the Canyon Creek
phase of the prehistoric period and the Skidi phase that is a period of recognized Apachean occupation. This was noted by Haury in his Mogollon volume and has since
been repeated by archaeologists summarizing the culture history of the area. The inability to identify Apachean sites in this area has lead to this perception, as has the
notion that Apache sites are expected to be situated in the same localities as prehistoric Mogollon sites. In fact, through time there was a proclivity for the Apache to live in
the mountainous areas adjacent to the valleys; so those researchers searching for their evidence in the valleys will not likely find it. Not at least until later when the
Western Apache in particular became relatively more sedentary and began occupying and farming lower-lying areas. Thus, a lack of evidence of Apache occupation in
the valleys where important Mogollon villages are located does not imply that there was an occupational haitus, a lack of people present, and a void in use. Instead it
means that other niches need to be examine for evidence of habitation sites. Once these more visible sites are found it will likely be possible to associate sites in a wider
range of settings with earlier Apachean presence. The Apache ranged far and wide to exploit their environment.
To some degree it is true, if you define your study areas small enough, there is an occupational gap, but if you define it to understand landscape use and terrain selection,
there is probably no gap. Ancestral Apachean sites are known from the surrounding areas. These date to the period encompassed by the gap. There are also sites to the
south that date even earlier, which only makes sense from a migration standpoint if they are also further north. Of course some people still think of Athapaskan migrations
as occuring down the plains and then circling in from the east to occupy the mountainous areas of the American Southwest, but this is no longer beleived by those who are
in the mix, studing Athapaskan migrations. The contemporaniety of dates in the mountains and on the plains, the use of early traditional accounts, widespread material
culture related to the Cerro Rojo complex, and site scattered throughout the mountains suggest that there were many corridors of migration and that at least one came
down the mountains to the west of the plains. Consequently, it makes no sense that an area in and near the mountains to the north would be devoid of occupation while
mountainous areas to the south and southwest have quality evidence--especially if one accepts a mountain route of migration that would have taken Ancestral Apache
through the Mogollon highlands.

The problem with the conceptualization that there was an occupation gap is that this is used as a logical step in suggesting that there was no one around and that the
Apache did not arrive in this portion of the Southwest or the entire southern portion of the Southwest until much later. This can now be demonstrated to be untrue as
numerous sites to the south, west, and east have revealed early dates in association with distinctly Athapaskan material cutlure. This is discussed in another way in the
following publication:

Seymour, Deni J.
2008 Despoblado or Athabascan Heartland: The Safford Area in the Ancestral Apache Settlement Scheme. Chapter 5 in Crossroads of the Southwest: Culture, Ethnicity, and
Migration in Arizona's Safford Basin, edited by David E. Purcell, Cambridge Scholars Press, New York.
Tools other than projectile points can be representative of a particular groups. Archaeologists tend to focus on pottery and projectile
points as an indication of cutlural affilaiton. In the protohistoric and historic periods it is difficult to differentiate between groups on the
basis of just pottery and projectle points because there is so much overlap. Overlap occurs owing to high degrees of mobility, intermixing
of people between small groups, and less concern for signaling identity through these types of non-perishable material culture, varied
learning networks, and truncation of learning networks that would lead to well honed material culture traditions.
It is essential to look at the entire assemblage, to examine the full range of evidence as a whole in order to distinghish
between various groups that may have been present.
Other fun finds from the rock shelter:
The two perforators to the left are typical
of the Cerro Rojo complex of the ancestral
Mescalero and Chiricahua Apache. The
spokeshave to the right is common
through time.
The knives below include a flake knife on the left that is nothing more than a large core reduction flake with a sharp edge that
was used in an expedient fashion. These are commonly found on Apache sites. Next is a unifacial knife with fine retouch along
the left margin and end. Another unifacial tool is shown in close-up so that the retouch flake scars can be viewed. The bifacally
worked tool on the far right is characteristic of a small subset of tools that were formally prepared and bifacial. Below, in the
Locality 2 discussion, a bifacial knife is illustrated. Formal bifacial knives are rare owing to their misidentification as Archaic
tools. Moreover, they are nice and have therefore often been collected by the public. Knives made by the Apache differ from
those of surrounding groups and so it seems that they may be differentiated on the basis of style--although groups borrowed
from one another and used each others' material culture when they found it.
These projectile points are
also seemingly Apache
because points of this style
also occur on early
Athapaskan sites throughout
he southern Southwest.
Tizon Wiped
Apache Plain
See below for a
discussion of these
stone tool forms.
This "storage pit"
seems to be
associated with the
one of the late uses
of the rock shelter.
This hut outline and
hearth date to the
protohistoric/historic use
of the rock shelter as
Mixon suggested.
Double side-notched points are relatively
common in west and south Texas. This
modification seems to relate to hafting,
which may have been more secure or this
may have been a way to repair the point
for reuse when one of the ears broke off.
This triangular "point" may actually be a tool. The curved tip suggests
that it would not have been real useful as a projectile. Points reused as
tools, including drills and scrapers, are common in the terminal
prehistoric and historic periods throughout Chihuahua, Texas, and the
southern American Southwest.
Completed points that have broken or
preforms? Many points would have started
from a triangular "blank" but throughout the
Southwest (and elsewhere) many completed
points are simple triangular forms.
Referred to as Mogollon points by an analyst, presumably Mixon.
Referred to as Yavapai points by an analyst, presumably Mixon.
Referred to as
Basketmaker and San
Pedro points by an
analyst, presumably
Mixon.
Some of the Archaic points were
classed with Yavapai and
Mogollon, as points or tools, but
are clearly too large and so have
been included here.Some may
have been reused as tools in later
times, as it is common to find
points reworked as tools on these
late sites.