This section is from the book "Grand Canyon Of The Colorado River - John L. Stoddard's Lectures", by John L. Stoddard. Also available from Amazon: John L. Stoddard's Lectures 13 Volume Set.
Not only did Mr. Hodge discover in this rubbish several fragments of Indian pottery, but he, also, observed certain holes in the cliff which seemed to him to have been cut there specially for hands and feet. These he believed to be traces of an ancient trail. Stimulated by the announcement of this discovery, Professor William Libbey, of Princeton College, in July, 1896, made the ascent of the Enchanted Mesa by means of a life line fired over the mound from a Lyle gun. Stout ropes having then been drawn over the cliffs and made secure, the adventurous aeronaut was actually hauled up to the summit in a boatswain's chair, as sailors are sometimes pulled ashore from a sinking ship. On his descent, however, he declared that he had found nothing to indicate that the crest had ever been inhabited, or even previously visited. Nothing daunted by this statement, a few weeks later Mr. Hodge again attempted the ascent in which he had failed the year before. This time he was successful, and scaled the cliff by means of an extension ladder and several hundred feet of rope. But very different were the conclusions reached by him as to the probable authenticity of the tradition; for after having been on the mesa only a short time, he found a piece of ancient pottery, and, during a search of twenty hours, not only were several more fragments of earthenware discovered, but also two stone ax-heads, an arrow-point of flint, and part of a shell bracelet.
Moreover, a little monument of stone, arranged with evident design, was found on the edge of the cliff. Mr. Hodge and his party concluded, therefore, that beyond a doubt the Mesa Encan-tada had once been inhabited, and that the legend of the destruction of its last occupants may be true. The discovery of pieces of pottery here does not of itself prove great advancement in the race that made them; for, curiously enough, the manufacture of rude pottery is one of the first steps taken by man from a savage to a semi-civilized state. The various races of mankind have usually reached this art soon after their discovery of fire. In fact, such an invention is almost inevitable. Thus, an early method of cooking food has always been to put it into a basket smeared with clay, which is supported over a fire. The clay served the double purpose of preventing liquids from escaping and protecting the basket from the flame. Now, even the dullest savage could not have failed to notice, after a time, that the clay became hardened by the fire, and in that state was sufficient for his purpose without the basket. Simple as it seems, the discovery of this fact marks an important epoch in the progress of every primitive race, and some authorities on ethnology distinguish the two great divisions of Savagery and Barbarism by placing in the lower grade those who have not arrived at the knowledge of making pottery.
The Mesa From The East.
Looking Through A Crevice Of The Enchanted Mesa.
The Lyle Gun And Ropes.
Man In Boatswain's Chair.
The Hodge Party.
The Top Of The Mesa Encantada.
The Approach To Acoma.
Soon after passing this haunted rock, and driving further over the mesa-dotted plain, we came in sight of the weird city of the sky called Acoma. It occupies the summit of a tableland, the ascent to which is now a winding defile, flanked by frowning cliffs. Even this path, though readily ascended on horseback, is too precipitous and sandy for a wagon. Accordingly, as none of our party that day enjoyed the privilege of being an equestrian, we left our vehicle at the foot of the mesa, and completed the journey on foot. Some adventurous spirits, however, chose a short cut up the precipice along a natural fissure in the rocks, which, having been transformed with loose stones into a kind of ladder, was formerly, before these peaceful times, the only means of access to the summit. A steeper scramble would be hard to find. I must confess, however, that before taking either of these routes, we halted to enjoy a lunch for which the drive had given us the keenest appetite, and which we ate al fresco in the shadow of a cliff, surrounded by a dozen curious natives. Then, the imperious demands of hunger satisfied, we climbed three hundred and fifty feet above the surrounding plain, and stood in what is, with perhaps the exception of Zuni, the oldest inhabited town in North America. Before us, on what seemed to be an island of the air, was a perfect specimen of the aboriginal civilization found here by the Spanish conqueror, Coronado, and his eager gold-seekers, in 1540. For now, as then, the members of the tribe reside together in one immense community building. It is rather droll to find among these natives of the desert the idea of the modern apartment house; but, in this place, as in all the settlements of the Pueblo Indians, communal dwellings were in existence long before the discovery of America, and the mesa of Acoma was inhabited as it now is, when the Pilgrims landed upon Plymouth Rock.