Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ah-Ha-Kwe-Ah-Mac Village - Cuyamaca Mountains

"Ah Ha Kwe-Ah-Mac" (what the rain left behind?), is a pre-historic Yuman village, later associated with the Kumeyaay Indians. 

In my last post, I showed you an ancient Kumeyaay village site in Anza-Borrego. I also mentioned that the area is deadly hot during the summer months. Despite this fact, Indians thrived there for thousands of years. In part, they managed to do so by moving to their summer villages, up in the much cooler Cuyamaca Mountains. Although both of their seasonal homes were organized and semi-permanent, they still lived primarily as "hunter/gatherers."  

Also in my last post, I included a distant photo of where we were camped in the Cuyamaca mountains (about 12 miles away). Very close to where we were camped, I stumbled upon a pre-historic village ("Ah Ha Kwe-Ah-Mac") site, that may be the same summer village site, that was used by the same group of Kumeyaay Indians, that lived in the village in my last post, during the winter months. These two village sites are about 10 miles apart and there are ancient Indians trails leading from one area to the other. This village site has been abandoned since about 1869. That sad story, will be the subject of a future post.

We were camping in the Cuyamacas for the same reason the Kumeyaay did; it is very hot down below in the desert.

I didn't actually stumble across the summer village site. I spotted some bedrock mortars (morteros) while out on a hike a couple of months ago.  Some of you probably remember a post involving my search for the remains of an old gold mining camp. In the post I told you that while not actually lost, I stumbled upon a great surprise (to me anyway).  I spent a lot of time on the Internet and used every bit of my intuition relating to where and why Indians settled in particular places. 

While looking for the mining camp, I eventually ran across a trail heading in the direction I needed, to take me back to where I started. The little creek cutting across the meadow in this photo, was used in ancient times as well as today (mostly by game). Most of the hill that the trees are growing out of, is made of mine tailings. The tailings are lighter in color and some are visible, just left of center, in front of the trees. At one time the meadows in this area were surrounded by a forest of oak trees. A lot of acorns required a lot of mortars.

It may not catch your eye, but the little outcropping of granite bedrock in the center of the photo, sure caught mine.

This photo and the next are that same little chunk of bedrock. 

In addition to the four mortars on this rock, there is also a bit of "Lithic Scatter" around it. Lithic Scatter is pieces of rock (many times flakes), removed from another rock by percussion or force. This was done to make tools, projectile points, blades, etc.

This nearby rock had another mortar and small pottery sherds close to it

This mortar (and many more) were on top of the hill, where I took the first photo

Pot sherds (shards) were all over the area. The large piece in this photo was about 3 inches long. The black looking rock is obsidian. I'm pretty sure it is part of a broken tool, or point of some type. One edge had clearly been "worked" and was very sharp. There were also small pieces of soapstone around the area. The BEST thing about this entire area, was the total lack of human foot prints. We certainly didn't discover this village, but it was obvious that very few people know about it. I'd bet money that this site has never been totally excavated.

A couple hundred yards away from the last group of mortars, we found many more.

Walking down the hill, we found more.


In addition to mortars, this area was almost totally enclosed by a natural ring of boulders.

and more...

and more...

I'm not exactly sure what animal it belonged to, but this leg bone was big. If you embiggen the photo, you can also see quite a few small pieces of broken pottery.

From this point, we were heading to the outcrop of granite just above center in the photo.

This chunk of bedrock turned out to be the prize of the day. You can see one mortar on the right hand edge of the photo.

These were the only two mortars in this outcrop. More accurately, they were the only two TRADITIONAL mortars.

You can tell by my cell phone, that these two were very large. As this was a seasonal village, it must have taken centuries for it to get this big.

These irregular looking indentations in the granite are also grinding surfaces, but more like "metates" or "slicks" and are VERY rare. They are called Cuyamaca Ovals and are pretty much isolated to a very small area of the country. That small area, just happens to be right here. Cuyamaca Oval sites are found in meadow areas and were primarily used for the grinding of seeds and cracking acorns open.

All of this and we only searched what I believe to be about a fourth of the village area.



  1. This is so interesting Pat, and so sad that their way of life is almost lost forever...

  2. This is so interesting Pat, and so sad that their way of life is almost lost forever...

  3. Then that was a really big village.
    Who would come in to excavate a site that large anyway?
    Beautiful photos. And a beautiful spot. They knew how to pick them.

  4. Whenever I read your posts Pat I transport back to the 1860's and try to imagine what this scene must have been like then.. the women cooking and grinding in the mortars, the men out hunting.. The tribe packing up and making the trek up to the mountains when it got hot.. Imagine if the white man hadn't come along would it still be the same now I wonder!

  5. i just kept saying 'wow' as i read and viewed your post. such a neat find! loved the beauty of the terrain and craggy trees.

  6. You got some great vista shots. And a lot of history. I wouldn't have guessed the holes were for grinding. So interesting.

  7. It's amazing what you can find if you know what you're looking for!

  8. Great pictures as always, Pat. Do you know if the obsidian is from there, or traded with other tribes?

  9. Can't help wondering how much of the rock may have been ingested after grinding?

    PS: I sent you an email, did you see it?

  10. Another amazing collection of photos of an amazing place, Pat!! They never fail to take my breath away!! Your posts are the highlight of my weekend -- as always! And thank you -- as always, for sharing your incredible travels!!

  11. Amazing shots, Pat. The area around there is stark and beautiful, and there's so much history here.

  12. That was such an amazing place once upon a time. Great photos Pat!

  13. I really enjoyed the photos. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Nice find. I think we can underestimate the abilities of pre-settle peoples to travel, trade and work in places that we find inhospitable.

    I suppose it all part of the idea that its easier to take land of people who we pretend were never there.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  15. You wow me every time, Pat! These are just amazing, and it looks a bit cooler with the greens here and there.

  16. I'm amazed at how much you know!! I love reading your blog for a lot of reasons, but one of them is because I learn something new every time. What a beautiful area!!

  17. You all really do find some great historical treasures when you hike and camp... Looks like you had a great time hiking in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Neat that you saw so many mortars there. That one huge one is amazing.


  18. Siddhartha Joshi - Thank you Sid! I agree with what you said. It is sad...

    Alex J Cavanaugh - Thanks Alex! It is pretty big and we only had time to explore a portion of it so far. Archaeologists would do the excavation with the help of students, over a period of time. I'm sure there was a partial survey done, but now it just sits and they pretend it doesn't exist.

    PerthDailyPhoto - Like you, I also imagine those things. I don't know if things would be the same if the whites hadn't come here. However, I do know that nothing good has happened as a result of it.

    TexWisGirl - Oh yes! Imagine exploring these places in person. I get a thrill of any little part of it.

    Sharon Wagner - Thanks Sharon! They had everything they needed.

  19. Al - As much as I enjoy seeing these things, I also love looking for them.

    Should Fish More - Thanks so much!
    Although there was a source for obsidian that was fairly close, it was not under the control of this group. It seems that they traded for it, with the group that did. A very interesting thing about obsidian, is that much of it, can now be scientifically traced to its source.

    Ms A. - I'm sure that granite would be hard on the teeth. I did get your email (sorry about the delay). I will get back to you right away.

    Sylvia K - Thanks so much Sylvia! You are so nice. Seeing these things in person, does the same to me.

    William Kendall - Thanks William! The historical part of it, totally amazes me.

  20. Brian - Thanks Brian! It was amazing then and still amazing now.

    Kay - Thanks Kay! It is my pleasure.

    Steward M - Thanks Stewart! I agree with you on both counts. They did just fine before contact. It is really sad that there were several groups throughout the years who wished they were never there.

    Icy BC - Thanks! It is a lot cooler up there and I can fully understand why they would migrate on a seasonal basis.

    Baby Sister - Thanks Amanda! I know more than some and much less than many. This really is a beautiful area.

    Betsy Adams - Thanks Betsy! There are a lot of great things and places all around us. Some of them are hidden in plain sight.

  21. What an exciting discovery and insight into past history. The scenery is pretty amazing too.

  22. What a find! Absolutely fascinating photo essay. Thank you.

  23. Fantastic photos as always Pat! What an interesting place to discover.

  24. This is so fascinating! Seeing remnants of ancient civilizations right there in a field. Incredible. Once again, you go to the most interesting places. And as always, LOVE the photos!

  25. Beautiful country and I like the name-"what the rains left behind." I supposed the site was just a bit haunted by the former tenants.

  26. some of the trees look like artpieces

  27. One of the most interesting post I have read for a long time. You "mix" your archaeological and anthropological findings (including not the least your photos) into a compelling mixture.

  28. Gosh, I would love to see this place- adding it to our list for future travels!

  29. Amazing places and landscapes. Greetings.

  30. What a great trip.. so much history here and love the places you share with us all..
    very cool place indeed

  31. Lady Fi - It certainly does get me excited. It's all made even better because of the scenery.

    altadenahiker - Thank so much! It's my pleasure.

    Eva Prokop - Thanks Eva! Very interesting and I wish I had discovered it the first time.

    VEG - Hey! Every time I see places like this, I still get excited. Thanks for the nice words.

    Sage - I really like the name also. I wouldn't say it was haunted, but I always feel something in these places.

  32. DEZMOND - They really do. This area has burnt over several times and there are a lot of odd looking trees around.

    RuneE - Thanks so much for saying all that! I could give a lot more information, but I don't want to bore everyone. Thanks again!

    Shelly - If your list is like mine, it's a long one. I wish I had more time to check off those items.

    Japy - Hi Japy! It is amazing there.

    sixdegreesphotography - Thanks Lynne! I'm very glad you enjoy these places.

  33. Oh Pat this is just so amazing. I get shivers when we visit an ancient site that is well known -- just thinking about the people who went before and what happened ....

    But to actually find it yourself, to re-discover it, so to speak, is just beyond wonderful. Oh my gosh. I can't even imagine your joy.

    Appreciate your sharing so much.... this is wonderful.

  34. Oh, Pat, how wonderful! Love seeing this part of the world through your eyes!


  35. Sallie (FullTime-Life) - I agree with Sallie! I get the shivers also. Even though most of these places are known in an archaeological sense, they keep it so secret, that is possible to kind of "re-discover" them. I spend as much time searching the internet for hints as I do physically looking for them.
    Thanks for the nice words Sallie! I'll be over!

    Pearl - Thanks Pearl! I really like seeing it in person and sharing it. I just wish I had more time to be out there.

  36. What a wonderful place and absolutely beautiful coverage of it. I have been doing a lot better the last six weeks or so. I don't know what that means for my gigantic amount of stuff I want to put online one way or another, but I can now look at your posts and say, "Hey, I might get to see that someday, or at least go places again and see something . . . anything." Endocrine hell is fading away bit by bit. Yay!!! Thanks for keeping in touch.

  37. It must have been a bustling camp way back. It must be a rush to know that there have been few that have ventured here before you.

  38. tapirgal - I'm glad to hear that you are progressing. Sometimes things take longer than we want, but keep moving forward.

    Wayne - I'm sure it was. There are more in the area, and I'm narrowing down the locations of them as well. It is pretty cool to go to a place like this and see absolutely no footprints.

  39. Loved these pictures, Pat. I wanna grind up some seeds in a rock now.

  40. You find the most interesting and amazing places. I need to start getting off of the beaten path. Nice shots!

  41. If you hadn't put your phone down, I wouldn't have imagined they're so big. Looks pretty dry thereabouts. I hope you're chugging lots of water.

    Be well, Pat.
    Your pictures are always beautiful.

  42. What a fascinating find. This is a peek into the past that fuels the imagination. I'd probably just walk right past a lot of this though I have seen those indentations in rock like you picture here. Next time I run into something like that perhaps I'll look a bit closer. That is if I ever get out in the wilds like that.

    Tossing It Out

  43. I had to sound out the title to make sure you weren't goofing with us. You know, along the lines of "Oh Wa Ta Goo Siam."

  44. Bossy Betty - Thanks Betty! You go right ahead and grind away.

    James - Thanks James! You are right about getting off the beaten path. That is where the good stuff is.

    RawknRobyn - That particular mortar is huge. That makes it old and frequently used. That particular spot is in the mountains, so it's not as hot as the usual places. Still, I drink a lot of water. Thanks so much Robyn.

    Arlee Bird - You are so right about fueling the imagination Lee. I'm so glad to live in an area, where this kind of thing is always close at hand. I hope you do get out in the "wilds" again.

  45. You are a "bedrock" of knowledge. You keep learning and teaching all of us. I hope you print your blog into a book each year for your grandchildren. It's very exciting.

  46. Breathtaking sights there. Such beauty and history all together. Really glad you take these stunning hikes, and I get to appreciate it from afar.

  47. Laura Delegal - HA! That is funny!
    If I did print it out, it would be pretty thin. I've really slowed down on posting. Thanks Laura!

    Robin Andrea - Yep! I have just about everything I need out there. I just wish I was "out there" all the time. Thanks Robin.

  48. I have learned to recognize those indentation and "holes" in bed rock for what they really are/were because you have been educating me, Pat. Thanks again.

  49. Rosemary Nickerson - Thanks Rosemary! Most folks just walk by them and don't much at all. When I see one, I'm instantly put into a time machine.

  50. Really amazing photos, I love the way that fallen trunk!

  51. Leovi - Thank you very much Leovi.


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