of the Ancient Ones
Land ~ Sea Discovery Group Staff
Pyramid of the Sun, Tenochtitlan,
Land ~ Sea Discovery Group Collection.
dreams is something I don't ordinarily do, but for years this
particular dream would pop up whenever it so desired sometimes
finding me gasping for air. It could occur sometimes in the middle
of the night or on a lazy Sunday afternoon while dozing off in
the easy chair. It was always the same and always left me with
the feeling that I needed to investigate it further. After all,
this dream contained a subject I was greatly interest in, namely
treasure. They say a treasure hunter should follow all his possible
leads. Do dreams count? Is this just a conglomeration of all the
books I've read or movie's I've seen? The dream goes something
a great, green valley, a multicolor robed shaman camps for the
night with his band of followers. They are the bearers of a great
treasure far from the south. Gold, silver and riches beyond belief
accompany them on their trek that will soon be over. The shaman
is leading them to the place where his ancestors came from. In
the camp, light from the fire illuminates his face. As the sparks
rise to meet his outstretched hands that reach towards the heavens
he says, "Celebrate tonight my people for tomorrow we enter
the village of our ancestors. I want to be ready. We will be treated
with great honor."
on rounding the bed of the stream that led into the village an
ominous feeling comes over them. Where are the sounds of the children
playing? Where are the lookouts? Finally arriving at the village
the shaman finds it empty. The cliff house, built into a massive
hollow in the wall of the mountain is deserted, pots and mats
lying strewn about where the people left them. All the rooms are
searched to no avail. The people were gone.
nature of enchantment is this?" Thinks the shaman. "Where
could my ancestors have gone?" Being the great leader that
he is he decides to bury the treasure in a sub room of the village.
Then he leads his people away in search of food and survival in
this enchanted land.
This is usually
where the mist comes into the dream, as I never seem to know why
or where I am. I do recall however a series of rooms in a high
place made of red sandstone blocks and a sign saying, "Stay
on the Trails." I remember stepping off beyond the trail
and then falling through a roof. In some of the dreams I fall
into the room itself, out of breath and choking from the dust
of centuries being stirred up by my fall. In others the fall wakes
me up. But in both versions, as I'm falling, my eyes catch a glitter
of gold in a corner of the room that the sunlight explodes upon,
blinding me for a brief second. That's the dream, over and over
again for years.
is nothing to it all, but the truth is, it nagged me to no end.
I re-read some of the books I had read years ago looking for clues.
Coronado's Children, Golden Mirages, books on the Anasazi, and
stacks of Desert Magazines lay scattered across my office desk.
As the legends came off the pages I rediscovered the Southwest
as if for the first time. Legends of gold and treasure, I've found
often have some basis in truth no matter how far-fetched the legend
is. Man has been chasing dreams of gold and legends of treasure
for centuries, why should I be any different? Even if I was just
chasing a dream it would be a fun project.
to be two main lines of thought. One stems from the legends of
the Indians in the Southwest and the other comes from the Aztec
people of Mexico. Although the legends of the southwest Indians
are Older I'll start with the Aztec story.
A serpent at the Temple of Quezacoatl. Quezacoatl was said
to have sailed from Vera Cruz on a raft of such serpents,
towards the east.
Prior to the
landing of the Spanish conquistador Coronado, on the doorstep
of Montezuma's homeland in the Valley of Anahauc, the great Aztec
leader had a dream. Like my own dream it to was probably veiled
in mist leaving the leader unclear as to the true meanings of
the dream. His dream was of Quezacoatl, who was a great leader
of the people in ancient times. Quezacoatl established the arts
in the culture of the Aztec people. Conjuring doctors and magicians
managed to relieve him of his power and Quezacoatl sailed away
to the East on a raft of serpents. He promised to return to his
people. Montezuma dreamed of his return. Not once but often.
landed at the same site that Quezacoatl left from, now Vera Cruz,
Montezuma thought for sure his dreams had come true. What a great
thing this was for his people. But Montezuma was cautious. What
if it wasn't Quezacoatl but an invader, an enemy of the people?
Montezuma decided the best thing to do was to hide half of his
vast fortune. He ordered a man named Tlahuicole to take the treasure
far into the northern country and bury it. Within two days of
Coronado's landing half of the treasure was safely underway to
a new land. Montezuma prepared to meet his Quezacoatl and sent
forth-extravagant gifts for the great god. What Montezuma then
saw was not the goodwill of the god but the greed of Spaniards.
Montezuma then sent runners to all parts of the country advising
the people that this was not Quezacoatl and to bury all their
gold and jewels.
The Lomaki Ruin's remoteness
affords the explorer an opportunity to contemplate his surroundings
of the legends of the Aztec Montezuma place the treasures in different
places but all agree it's to the North. Some say the Ajo Mountains
just east of Tinajas Altas and others place it as far north as
the White Mountains of Utah. The books abound with variations
with many agreeing on Arizona.
Now the Indians
of the Southwest had their god too, and though in the beginning
he didn't have the name Montezuma, somewhere along the path of
time it was adopted. Perhaps after Indians crossed
paths with the Spanish explorers and heard of the great Montezuma
from the South, they thought, our god is as great and as powerful
and has as many riches, he is our Montezuma.
An amphitheatre used for ceremonial
gatherings at Wupatki.
Earlier it is believed the Indian gods' name was Pose-ueve or
he who walks along strewing moisture in the morning. He was born
to a virgin who conceived him after a pinon nut fell from a tree
and landed on her belly. Growing up it was said he was a lazy
youth and the butt of many jokes from his peers. One day a new
leader was to be elected to the tribe and Pose-ueve was nominated
as a cruel joke. For some unanswerable reason he was elected to
be the tribes new leader. The people soon changed their tune about
Pose-ueve as he at once became a great leader. Under his leadership
the people began to prosper and crops grew increasingly better.
His village became rich in turquoise, shells and other valuables.
Pose-ueve or Montezuma as he became known, created many miracles.
He could produce rain for his people at will.
At one point
the Indian legends take several different turns.
One has Montezuma
becoming a minister of the Great Spirit, one of such a high exalted
rank that his name was not to be mentioned. This Great Spirit
created everything and then put man on earth to enjoy it all.
Montezuma was his minister and his powers were as great as the
sun. In deed he is said to have the power to guide the sun.
wanting to provide him with a great place of lodging on his day
off built a great and mighty building for him. This great building
is to reach up to the sky. At some point in the legend, Montezuma
goes to war with the sun and places all his riches in this building.
At Acoma, a town that claims the birthplace of Montezuma, Indians
say the great house is in the far western mountains. They say
the rooms reach into the earth, the lower room lined with silver
and gold. In the room above, great piles of silver were stored
to be used as decorations for the other rooms of the house. Some
versions simply describe the building as holding great wealth
The Wukoki ruins reach above
the prairie to the clouds.
tells of Indians assisting in burying a great treasure of placer
gold from the nearby mines in Mexico, into a cave below a rock
resembling an Indian's head and shoulders. Legend has it that
Montezuma himself guards the cave. The treasure is worth millions
they say. After the treasure was stored in the mountain, Montezuma
climbed up the mountain and turned to stone.
another story told by the Indians that blends with the story of
the Aztecs. Montezuma, the maker of miracles, was told by the
Great Spirit that an eagle would appear to him which he was to
mount and fly above the lands to find a new country for his people.
A Zuni maiden was picked for his wife. When he was ready for the
journey, he got on the eagle with his wife and flew to the South.
The eagle finally landed on a prickly pear and at the same time
seized a serpent in his beak. This happened on the shore of a
lake and the place eventually became known as Tenochtitlan, or
Mexico City. In this story the Indian god has gone to the South
and becomes the same god as in Mexican legend.
crisscross each other so much it would take a time machine to
really straighten it all out.
in Arizona, according to the evidence, was built during the reign
of Montzuma the Aztec god. It's believed the Pima and Papago Indians
built that structure. The Indians call the old house Casa Montezuma.
Everything is dated from that monarchy. A Labyrinth was found
on a wall at Casa grande. Similar labyrinths had treasures planted
in them at the castles of Montezuma in Mexico.
many stories also of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. Cabeza
de Vaca was shipwrecked on the coast of Florida and managed to
trek his way far to the West. He survived savage Indians, starvation,
and thirst. His journey took eight years. Along the way he heard
of the great cites to the West. Cities where the natives wore
civilized clothing and lived in palaces adorned with sapphires
and turquoise. Gold was abundant everywhere. A Moor named Estevanico
and eleven Indians accompanied Cabeza on the trip.
Moor accompanied Coronado on his journey to find the fabled Seven
Cities of Cibola. The legend was an old one but Cabeza's fresh
accounting of it refueled the fires. After finding vast wealth
in the New World, just about anything was believable to the Spaniards.
Remember these early Spaniards even hunted for a fountain of youth.
Coronado then set out with 300 Spaniards, 1000 Indians, 1000 extra
horses, and herds of swine and sheep to sustain them along the
sent the Moor ahead with a message that if the cities were not
as great as they heard they were he was to send back a cross two
hands high. If the cities were as great or greater he was to send
back a larger cross. Coronado received back a cross as large as
a man. This fueled the army forward and when Coronado reached
the supposed golden city he found mud and adobe buildings with
naked savages toiling in the fields.
perhaps to the Indian, the riches of which they spoke could have
been the riches of power and wisdom or their great contacts with
the spirit world. Riches to many are interpreted in many ways.
that to enrich my overview of this treasure-hunting scenario,
I needed to witness for myself some of these vanished civilizations
of the Southwest. The area to the West as the Indians put it and
the area to the North as the Aztec put it covered a vast area
of land. With the limited time and resources the average person
has at their disposal, I felt I had to go to an area that was
very concentrated in ruin sites. I decided to start in the Flagstaff,
a place and start was the general idea. The main concentration
was to investigate these ancient civilizations but you've got
to be prepared for anything. This was to be a working vacation
so I had to plan around that also. I brought my Spectrum detector
and as a back up my Fisher detector. I took along long and short
handled shovels, rock picks, and prodding tools and just in case
I also brought my gold pan and classifier. My miners' light, whiskbroom,
and books on buried treasures were added at the last minute.
We left from
Los Angeles, crossed the desert and spent the first night at a
motel on old Route 66. After dinner there was still enough light
left to metal detect for a while.
On the morning
of the 6th of May my hunting partner Susan and I headed out to
the North of Flagstaff. Our first stop was at the Wukoki ruin.
Wukoki in the Hopi language means 'big house.' The Sinagua Indians
lived here roughly around 1100-1225 AD. The structure was built
entirely of layered blocks of moenkopi sandstone. Sinagua means
'without water' in Spanish. The Indians lived and cultivated the
land here north of Flagstafff for nearly four hundred years. In
around 1064 or 1065 the people were forced to vacate the land
because the Sunset Crater spewed lava, ash, and cinders several
feet thick over their farmlands. A few decades later the Sinagua
came back and discovered they could farm a previously uncultivated
area. A thin ash coat actually helped in some areas to lengthen
the growing season. The people again prospered until around 1150
when an extensive drought began. Sometime soon the people vanished.
This was my
first visit to an Indian ruin and I was really amazed at the technology
that went into the building of this site. The nice part of this
area is that it is fairly unsupervised and gave me the freedom
to explore to my hearts' content. I respected the laws of the
land and kept all my investigations limited to photographic and
An explorer investigates a
water drainage system at the Citadel.
Our next visit
was to Wupatki, meaning 'tall house.' The first European-American
documentation of these ruins was by Captain Lorenzo Sitgraves
around 1851. The site was long since abandoned when he arrived.
This ruin, which peaked around 1000 AD, was three stories high
in places, contained almost 100 rooms, and housed perhaps 200
residents. This ruin lies along a major prehistoric trade route
leading from Mexico to areas north and east of the ruins. The
Sinagua and the Anazasi tribes occupied the ruins. This building
is also made of moenkopi sandstone, a rock that breaks naturally
into block shapes making it a natural for building material.
In the surrounding
area there are other ruins, some on the trail and other off. The
notable ones are the Nalakihu, Lomaki, and the Citadel. You need
permission to get off the trail to look around, but to be honest
with you a first time visitor to the area will have more than
enough to keep themselves busy with the easily accessible areas.
overlooks a vast amount of land. This one reminded me somewhat
of a Moorish castle in Spain. Built high on a ridge overlooking
the vast plains this site afforded the Indians the best of protection
from their enemies. In the not so far distance are the snow-capped
peaks of the San Francisco Mountains.
On the path to the Lomaki
ruins the author is greeted by the watcher of the pathways.
On the rock
lined pathway to the Lomaki ruin I was greeted by the ancient
watcher of the pathways, a beautiful green lizard. I sat on a
rock and he on his. We spent a few minutes eyeing each other bravely
and then he went into his pushup routine. I pushed on to the ruin.
day we headed to Montezuma's Castle perhaps misnamed by the early
white settlers of the Verde Valley. These early visitors to the
cliff house apartments thought this was a castle built for Montezuma.
This site, though definitely more tourist oriented is definitely
worth seeing. The park rangers give an informative tour and have
an impressive display of artifacts to gaze upon.
was occupied between 1100 and 1400. The twenty-room apartment
housed as many as fifty people. The additions to the castle were
added over a period of 300 years, the earliest being closest to
the top of the complex. On and on for a week we trekked, stopping
whenever we could to check out a new set of ruins. Tuzioot, Walnut
Canyon, and Casa Grande were among them.
A vintage photo of Montezuma's
Castle in Arizona. The site was occupied between 1100 and
Land ~ Sea Discovery Group Collection.
All of these
ruins experienced a vanishing of their people. Many scholars blame
severe droughts that occurred in the thirteenth century. There
is evidence of this found in the study of tree rings and soil
samples. Others say it was warfare amongst the tribes, evidenced
by the architecture of the structures we encountered.
also consider communal living the culprit. These cliff dwellings
and apartments housed many families and these families took to
farming as a source of food. Their small plots of land were farmed
close to their dwellings and were used over and over again for
a period of 3-4 hundred years. This no doubt caused a soil depletion
of minerals and organic material. The ancient farmers did not
have the knowledge or the means to fertilize their fields to renew
their mineral content.
evidence reveals that the hunters and gatherers in earlier times
faired better in their heath and well being due to a more balanced
diet of animal and vegetable products. As farmers the people relied
on a high carbohydrate diet consisting mainly of corn. This led
to nutritional deficiencies caused by malnutrition. Consider also
the non-existent sanitary conditions of all these people living
source of fuel for cooking and warmth was wood and in most cases
wood was gathered and carried on their backs since there were
no horses or mules to carry the wood. Eventually great areas surrounding
their homes experienced what we now call deforestation.
that it was a number of these reasons that caused these people
to leave their great homes. Perhaps they died out, perhaps they
moved on, sometimes only the legends survive. Are these the Seven
Cities of Cibola? Are they the home to the clouds of the Indian
god Montezuma? Somewhere buried amongst the ruins, are the treasures
of the Aztec, Montezuma buried? Perhaps we will never really know.
is being presented to you as a starting point. What you see and
perceive will be different from what I did. Where I go from here
remains at this point unknown. The possibilities are endless perhaps
another dream will lead me on another adventure south of the border
or across the seas. For me the real treasure of this trip was
the knowledge I gained, the beauty I saw and a chance to explore
our great southwest.
1 Phillip A. Bailey, Golden Mirages, The Macmillan Company, 1940
2. Ernest E. Snyder, Prehistoric Arizona, Golden West Publishers,
3. J. Frank Dobie, Coronado's Children, Grosset and Dunlap, 1930
4. John D. Mitchell, Lost Mines & Buried Treasures Along the
Old Frontier, Desert Press Inc. 1953
5. Personal experiences of the author