Tonto Cliff Dwellings
Discovering an intact remnant of the distant past
Heading south from Roosevelt Dam on Hwy 188 we stumbled across the Tonto National Monument, which features cliff dwellings that even I could climb to (about a mile up a steep-ish trail.) This is not Mesa Verde: Judging from the size, maybe a couple dozen people lived here at one time. It would have been great to see the structures before eager tourists reduced their size by about half. Today the adobe work is carefully guarded by two rangers. In these photos, you see the walls and roofs that contain pitch black rooms that I found impossible to photograph in any meaningful way. Trust me, they were dark and small.
The people who lived in the dwellings are now known as Salado, a name that some say represents the fact that these were descendants of several different tribes. There are other origins for the name, but I can't remember them off hand. At any rate, I'm finding that what you call various indigenous groups is a touchy and ever evolving topic. At any rate, the dwellings were occupied during the 13th-15th centuries. The residents farmed waaaaay down below in the Salt River Valley (one hell of a daily commute--but look at the view). They also hunted and ate local plants.
The visitor's center has a small museum containing examples of the beautiful polychrome pottery and intricately woven textiles that were found nearby. I liked the woven sandals that looked like a folded up placemat made with 1 inch wide strips of palm leaves. Very basic. Hard to imagine how they'd keep thorns out of your feet. On that hellacious commute.
About that tarantula that Fred was examining
I'd never seen a tarantula in the wild before, so I did some research in The Natural History of the Sonoran Desert. (Which I bought for full retail price. And it's the old edition.)
At any rate, here are the pertinent facts, cleaned up to remove the anatomically correct copulation details:
- Male tarantulas mature when they are 10-12 years old.
- Once mature, they leave their burrows looking for a bride.
- Once he finds a mature female (also about 10 years old) he courts her by stroking the silk at the top of the burrow and tapping particular sequences that the female responds to.
- Mating requires the male to connect with the female by reaching under her.
- It is at this point that she may eat him.
- He protects himself using a spur located behind his knee to holder her in place.
- After mating, the female may still eat the male. Even if she doesn't, he'll die soon anyway having finished his life's purpose.
Speaking of human mating rituals....
Perhaps you've heard of a dance called the Tarantella. Here's what the Encyclopedia Britannica has to say about it:
Tarantella, couple folk dance of Italy characterized by light, quick steps and teasing, flirtatious behaviour between partners; women dancers frequently carry tambourines. The music is in lively 6/8time. Tarantellas for two couples are also danced. The tarantella’s origin is connected with tarantism, a disease or form of hysteria that appeared in Italy in the 15th to the 17th century and that was obscurely associated with the bite of the tarantula spider; victims seemingly were cured by frenzied dancing. All three words ultimately derive from the name of the town of Taranto, Italy. Tarantellas were written for the piano by Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, and Carl Maria von Weber.
<<Feel free to pause here to insert your own observations about folk dancing.>>