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Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains

Cañada del Oro Petroglyphs

Canada del Oro Petroglyphs

On the northwest edge of the Santa Catalina Mountains, overlooking the Cañada del Oro, once stood numerous large boulders etched with petroglyphs.

Several hikers, and a seasoned prospector, discovered the glyphs as they explored the rolling hills in the northwest portion of the Catalinas in 1981. [1] Numerous boulders with distinct markings were found on a hill overlooking the valley close to the mouth of the Cañada del Oro.

After the discovery was reported, the Arizona State Museum conducted an archaeological survey on the property. It concluded that the glyphs were authentic and might represent the Desert Culture people who occupied Southern Arizona from 6,000 to 500 B.C [2]

Several archaeologists from the museum inspected over 80 acres of washes, ridges and terraces along the Cañada del Oro. Three prehistoric sites and two possible historic sites were noted.  Three prehistoric rock art were considered to be “sufficient significance to warrant preservation” and a 200-foot radius buffer zone was recommended around the sites to ensure their preservation. [3]

One spot, a 1,000-foot by 100-foot area, had eight to ten boulders with various patterns packed into a patinated surface. The archaeologists were unable to decipher the glyphs.

One of the boulders appeared to have a double Omega sign with a line through it, another had some type of ancient craft and the other had various animals, according to one of the discoverers of the petroglyphs. [4]

The site, however, has been disturbed and the boulders no longer remain.

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[1] Discovered and reported to the Arizona State Museum by William T. “Flint” Carter and his group in February 1981. The photos of the petroglyphs are the original images from 1981.

[2] Letter to William T. Carter from Sharon F. Urban, Public Archaeologist, Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona. March 11, 1981.

[3] Letter to Richard R. Willey, Coordinator, Academic Conference Center, University of Arizona from John H. Madsen, Assistant Archaeologist, Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona. April 2, 1981.

[4] Interpreted by William Carter, who discovered and reported the find.