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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Petroglyphs in Downtown Mesa

Petroglyph Calendar at the Mesa Temple
Our final stop on our Northern Arizona Road Trip was at the Mesa Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  It was a nice stop on a Sunday, but the grounds are open every day of the week.  The visitor center had restrooms for the kids to use, as well as some information on the  temple, what Mormons believe, and Jesus Christ, including a scale model of Jerusalem.  One thing I've noticed about Mormon Historical Sites and places of note is that they avoid denigrating other religions, but instead put forward what they believe and leave it up to you to determine what you believe.  There is always someone there to answer questions.
The Mesa Temple
As we wandered around the temple grounds, we looked at the temple, noticed several citrus trees, and saw a calendar petroglyph in a boulder.  I always like seeing petroglyphs, so seeing these in such an unusual location got me wondering where they came from.  I learned that they are from Hieroglyphic Canyon, located east of Phoenix in the Superstition Mountains.  There are many more petroglyphs there, but this stone has an interesting history. 

I found this interesting explanation, which I've repeated below (Tom Kollenborn, Author):

A great rock bearing the outline of the old circular
calendar was once located in Hieroglyphic Canyon
on the west slope of Superstition Mountain near
Apache Junction. The rock, which weighs just over
four tons at 8,860 pounds, was moved to Mesa on
January 12, 1934. The rock required ten men to move
it from its original site in Hieroglyphic Canyon to its
present location on the Mormon Temple grounds in
In 1934, Mr. J.W. Lesuer told reporters from the Mesa
Journal-Tribune that the rock was a gift to the Temple
by the Pimas at Sacaton. According to the Pima elders,
the rock was found near the “throne of
Hatsehuhin” or the trysting stone of the maidens of
the Pima tribe where, ages ago, they tossed pebbles
against the stone seat where their lovers sat.
Mr. Lesuer was a strong advocate for the special preservation
of Hieroglyphic Canyon more than sixty
years ago. He never found any strong support for his
advocacy, therefore many of the pictoglyphs of Hieroglyphic
Canyon were hauled off by vandals.
According to a Mesa Journal-Tribune article dated
January 12, 1934, the O.S. Stapley Company of Mesa
provided a truck to move the stone from its original
site to its present location. Members of the Jr. Gospel
Doctrine class of Mesa Second Ward, of which J.W.
Lesuer was the teacher, provided the man-power to
move the stone from the canyon to a point where it
could be loaded on to a truck. The moving of this
four- ton rock was no easy task and was accomplished
by using pulleys and leverage bars. After several trips
to the site, the stone was eventually loaded and transported
to Mesa.
One side of the stone is completely covered with
petroglyphs. An interesting feature of the petroglyph
stone is the series of circles that correspond in number
and in sub-divisions with the Mayan calendar
stone. There are twenty-six perpendicular lines to the
concentric circles forming some fifty-two boxes.
When we think about it, there are fifty-two weeks in
a year. There are several other interesting things involving
these stones. The Mayan Calendar is a rectangular
block some 13 feet and 1 inch square, weighing
some 24 tons, and built into the wall of the Cathedral
of Mexico City. The calendar covers a period
from the year 613 B.C. for 2,147 years without the
loss of a single day. It is one of the most accurate
calendars known to the world.
The stone work on the Hieroglyphic Canyon stone
appears to have been made to resemble the Mayan
stone, in all of the circles and sub-divisions. Two
smaller calendars appear with rays of the sun shining
on them. The stone, according to professionals who
have examined it, say it is of enormous historical significance.
The importance of this stone from Hieroglyphic Canyon
has earned it a permanent site on the grounds of
the Mesa Mormon Temple. The stone needed to be
protected because, even as early as 1934, vandals had
marred the stone by using it as a shooting target.
E.C. Santeo of San Tan, Incarnacion Valenzula of
Lehi and Domingo Baptisto of Lehi told J.W. Lesueur
stories about the Pimas and Hieroglphic Canyon.
Lesueur considered Hieroglyphic Canyon so historically
significant he advocated for preservation status
of the canyon in 1934. He wanted it protected for future
generations to see. He so strongly believed in
protecting the calendar stone that he initiated its removal
from Hieroglyphic Canyon and its relocation
to Mesa. His goal was to protect the stone from destruction.
The ancient markings on this stone certainly would
not have survived if it had not been moved by this
dedicated group young men, some sixty-six years ago.
Today we can visit this marvelous stone on the temple
grounds and speculate about it origin and what the
great circles represent. If the stone had remained at
its original site in Hieroglyphic Canyon vandals would
certainly have totally defaced it by using it as a bull’seye
for target practice. Even today the stone exhibits
damage caused by bullets before its removal from
the canyon.
The “art gallery” of ancient carvings in Hieroglyphic
Canyon is one of the oldest in the Southwest. When I
think of the British Museum of Art, New York Metropolitan
Museum of Art, Fine Arts Institute of Chicago
or the Smithsonian, all of which I have visited
and all created by modern man, I must admit Hieroglyphic
Canyon stands out as a museum of ancient
art. It is a museum that has survived the ages with
little or no protection from the elements and vandals.
Ironically, the present status of the wilderness area
provides little or no protection for this site today. The
only protection for these artifacts are those of us who
will report vandals that damage these fine pictoglyphs.
Let us hope man has enough respect for this area that
it will be there for future generations to enjoy

Nearest City: Mesa , AZ
Location: 101 S. Lesueur, Mesa AZ
Time Needed: up to 1 hour
Difficulty: easy
Kid Friendly: yes
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