Exploring a Remarkable Pueblo: Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park

One mile south of Globe stands the ruins of the ancient Salado people who occupied the site nearly 800 years ago

This ancient village is known today as Besh Ba Gowah. The term was originally given by the Apaches to the early settlement of Globe. Roughly translated, the term means “Place of Metal.”

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum offers visitors an opportunity to explore the ruins of this relatively advanced culture, a museum which houses a large collection of Salado pottery and artifacts, botanical gardens, and a gift shop. The adjacent Ethno-Botanical Garden illustrates native Arizona plants that were used in their daily lives.

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Archaeologists consider Besh-Ba-Gowah a ceremonial, redistribution, and food storage complex. Salado Culture is identified as the cultural period from 1150 to 1450 in the Tonto Basin. Located at the confluence of Pinal Creek and Ice House Canyon Wash, Besh-Ba-Gowah Pueblo has one of the largest single site archaeological collections in the southwest and is one of the most significant finds of Southwest archaeology. Visitors walk through a 700-year-old Salado Culture pueblo, climb ladders to second story rooms, and view the typical furnishings of the era.

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Besh-Ba-Gowah had about 400 rooms of these about 250 were ground floor rooms. Precise numbers are impossible due to modern destruction of sections. Entrance to the pueblo was via a long narrow ground level corridor covered by the second level. The corridor opened onto the main plaza. This may have had a defensive purpose.

The present day interpretive trail uses plaques to inform the visitor. It begins with the ancient entrance way to the main plaza which measures 40 x 88 feet. About 150 elaborate burials were placed under the plaza. Hereditary high status is suspected from burial evidence in the plaza.

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The ruins had very few doors. Room access was by roof hatchways with ladders. Several reconstructed rooms with prehistoric contents are featured.

Cross-sections illustrate the roof construction of logs covered with layers of reeds, mats, and a thick coat of mud. The trail leads past the largest room in the pueblo, the so-called ceremonial room. A sipapu filled with turquoise dust and covered with a large quartz crystal was found in the room. The room contains built-in benches at various levels, four large roof support posts, and an altar on the east wall. Another unique feature of the pueblo is a small platform mound.

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Situated between a great number of Southwestern cultures, the Salado traded actively with neighbors both near and far. Seashells discovered in the village show that the Salado traded with people from as far as Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

Inside the museum two models of the ruins are presented. One shows the present condition. The other is a hypothetical reconstruction of the pueblo in 1325 A.D. It shows 20 courtyards and two three-story sections. One of the displays illustrates the archaeologist’s tool kit. Stone items on display include manos and metates, delicate carved stone palettes, stone axes and hoes, obsidian points, turquoise beads, local minerals, and a bow drill for bead making. Fabric artifacts include woven baskets and mats, sandals woven from yucca leaves, and fine woven cloth.

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One wall of the museum is covered with shelves of ancient pottery two pieces deep. A wide and diverse range of pottery includes red and white ware and plain and decorated pots. Besh-Ba-Gowah has a high percentage of decorated ware.

The Salado crafters of these bowls painted them with a white paint and a black paint made from boiled plant residue, although they sometimes used red in the late-Tonto style. The Pinto polychrome, emerging around 1275, displayed simple geometric patterns, while the Gila and Tonto polychromes that developed later had more elaborate designs and embellishments. Gila polychromes are the most widely spread pottery style in the Southwest, ranging from Casas Grandes in Mexico to the Mimbres Valley in New Mexico, with the highest concentration of the pottery found in the Tonto Basin.

Besh Ba Gowan Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The museum includes an excellent bookstore and gift shop and a small theater. Videos inform visitors about the ancient cultures and the ruins. An excellent assortment of informative books and scientific journals can be accessed by visitors.

Worth Pondering…

History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.

—Mark Yost

Exploring Globe-Miami

The community of Globe-Miami is rich in copper, culture, and a pleasant climate

In the middle of the 32,000 acres that are the Salt River Canyon Wilderness, U.S. Route 60 is a narrow ribbon buckling through the harsh terrain.

Salt River Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

By starting in Apache Junction you’ll traverse the 1,200-foot-long Queen Creek Tunnel cutting through the mountain at a 6 percent upward grade. Now you’ll climb 4,000 feet via tight bends, S-curves, and the three consecutive switchbacks plunging into the canyon. The highway twists through the Tonto National Forest with views of the Superstition Mountains.

Salt River Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The community of Globe-Miami is rich in copper, culture, and a pleasant climate. Globe was named from the legend of a 50-pound “globe” shaped silver nugget. Numerous antique shops and art galleries are situated in historic downtown Globe. Located in the foothills of the Pinal Mountains at an elevation of 3,500 feet, Globe-Miami enjoys cooler summers than its metropolitan neighbors while still having sunny, pleasant winters.

Globe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There is much to see and experience, as the area’s mining history, Old West traditions, and Native American culture offer a wide-ranging Southwestern experience. The historic downtowns, copper mining, the neighboring San Carlos Apache Reservation, and abundant outdoor recreation throughout the Tonto National Forest combine to make Globe-Miami much more than the sleepy community many expect to find. Mining still holds a significant role in the local economy, along with tourism.

Globe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Cobre Valley Center for the Arts is located in the landmark former Gila County Courthouse of 1906 at the heart of Globe’s historic downtown district. Since 1984, this non-profit entity has been restoring and rejuvenating this architectural treasure, while presenting regional artists, community theater, and dance and music academies. The Center is located at the corner of Broad and Oak Streets.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

One mile south of Globe stands the ruins of the ancient Salado people who occupied the site nearly 800 years ago. This ancient village is known today as Besh Ba Gowah. The term was originally given by the Apaches to the early settlement of Globe. Roughly translated, the term means “Place of Metal.” 

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum offers visitors a chance to explore the ruins of this relatively advanced culture, a museum which houses a large collection of Salado pottery and artifacts, botanical gardens, and a gift shop. The adjacent Ethno-Botanical Garden illustrates native Arizona plants that were used in their daily lives.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Located at the confluence of Pinal Creek and Ice House Canyon Wash, Besh-Ba-Gowah Pueblo has one of the largest single site archaeological collections in the southwest and is one of the most significant finds of Southwest archaeology.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Archaeologists consider Besh-Ba-Gowah a ceremonial, redistribution, and food storage complex. Salado Culture is identified as the cultural period from 1150 to 1450 in the Tonto Basin.

Visitors walk through a 700-year-old Salado Culture pueblo, climb ladders to second story rooms, and view the typical furnishings of the era.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Besh-Ba-Gowah had about 400 rooms, of these about 250 were ground floor rooms. Entrance to the pueblo was via a long narrow ground level corridor covered by the second level. The corridor opened onto the main plaza. This may have had a defensive purpose.

Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The present day interpretive trail uses plaques to inform the visitor. It begins with the ancient entrance way to the main plaza. The main plaza measures 40 x 88 feet. About 150 elaborate burials were placed under the plaza. Hereditary high status is suspected from burial evidence in the plaza. The ruins had very few doors. Room access was by roof hatchways with ladders. Several reconstructed rooms with prehistoric contents are featured.

Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The San Carlos Apache Reservation is located 12 miles east of Globe-Miami on U.S. Highway 70. Throughout this beautiful land you will find rich Apache culture, hunting and fishing opportunities, as well as other recreational delights. A tribal land permit is required for activities on tribal lands.

Wildflowers in the spring on Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Peridot Mesa, about 20 minutes east of Globe, is one of Arizona’s hot spots for wildflower viewing and one of the very first places in the state to kick off the spring wildflower season.

Spring Wildflowers on Peridot Mesa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

To my mind these live oak-dotted hills fat with side oats grama, these pine-clad mesas spangled with flowers, these lazy trout streams burbling along under great sycamores and cottonwoods, come near to being the cream of creation.

—Aldo Leopold, 1937