Prehistory

trailFor thousands of years, Native Americans and historic peoples were drawn to this isolated area of black mesas along what was the Gila River.  On the mesas, among rocks blazed black by the desert sun, these peoples left their marks here at Sears Point, depicting life as it once was.  Sears Point is a very special area that lies at a crossroad of historical events and cultures.  It embraces a wide array of archaeological sites, including rock alignments, cleared areas, intaglios, petroglyphs, and aboriginal foot trails.  This fragile evidence of human history spans thousands of years with some dating to the Archaic Period.  The prehistoric cultures which are believed to have utilized this archaeological district between 10,000 BCE and 1450 CE include the Desert Archaic, Patayan, and Hohokam cultures.

The Desert Archaic Period, known as the Amargosa in western Arizona, is characterized by nomadic lifestyles. The people living at Sears Point at this time were well adapted to living in desert conditions. They migrated seasonally based on the ripening of certain plant products and hunting conditions. Sears Point was a more lush area at this time and the Gila River was an important part of survival.

The Patayan and Hohokam peoples lived during what is known as the Ceramic Period. These people experimented with early agriculture and ceramics became important as a way to store food. Changes in population densities and rainfall may have played a role in this shift from a hunting and gathering emphasis to a more sedentary life closer to major streams and rivers. A new cultural era is obvious by the presence of more recent petroglyphs of a new style known as the Sears Point Patayan. Often the new style of petroglyphs is superimposed over the top of the older Archaic period petroglyphs.

The Sears Point area contains evidence that suggests an unusual association between Hohokam and Patayan features, which cannot be seen elsewhere. Sears Point is hypothesized to have been a boundary area between these cultures where the two groups maintained contact with each other.

Very little of the prehistory at Sears Point is well understood. Petroglyphs are difficult to date, and often the archaeological evidence is very subtle and fragile. Sears Point is a unique area and it holds an enormous amount of information about past lifestyles. However, we cannot learn from it if it is not kept in good condition. Please help us in our research by being gentle as you appreciate what Sears Point has to offer.


 Sears Point Archaeology

Related Information


  Yuma Field Office
2555 East Gila Ridge Road
Yuma, AZ 85365-2240
Phone: (928) 317-3200
Fax: (928) 317-3250
E-mail: YFOWEB_AZ@blm.gov 
Field Manager:  John MacDonald
Hours:  7:45 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., M-F