How many small towns in America host world-renown archeological parks? Stewarded by the City of Globe, Besh ba Gowah Archeological Park and Museum is home to the prehistoric stone pueblo of the Salado Indians. Few ruins in the southwest have produced such a wealth of knowledge and historic artifacts as Besh. In fact, since 1984, it has been listed with the “National Register of Historic Places” as being an outstanding “type site” for understanding Salado culture.
This lovely location on a hilltop above Pinal Creek has been home to many people groups over the years. Historic analysis shows evidence of primitive Hohokam occupation on the site in the 900s, then the Salado built a fortified pueblo from 1225 to about 1400 where 200+ rooms housed 350 people at its peak. The Apaches were next on the scene a few hundred years later, followed by a flood of miners. Besh ba Gowahloosely translates to “metal camp” in Apache.
Because Besh is one of multiple prehistoric masonry pueblos located in our area, noted archeologist, Adolf Bandelier, explored the region and mapped Besh in 1883. The site sat dormant until the WPA hired archeologist Irene Vickery to excavate the site from 1935 until her death in 1940. Her passing and the start of World War 2 shifted focus away from Besh and the site sat abandoned and open to damage by the elements until the 1980’s when the City of Globe stepped in, had the site re-excavated by ASU archeologists, and then worked to preserve the artifacts and recreate the dwellings by training local youth in masonry and building skills. Besh ba Gowah is a unique treasure and yet another thing I love about the Globe-Miami-San Carlos area. It is open seven days a week from 9-4:30, is ADA compliant and pet-friendly, and tickets are a bargain ($5 adults, $4 seniors, and kids 12 and under are free). I recommend watching the 12-minute informative video at the visitor’s center before exploring the structures. This entire site can be enjoyed in under 30 mins if you are pressed for time. However, if you are traveling at a more leisurely pace, don’t miss the museum with well-preserved artifacts from the site, including superb examples of multi-colored Gila polychrome pottery and a variety of textile fragments. I also recommend stopping at the gift shop to peruse their wide selection of books, Southwest food and jewelry, pottery, and metal art. If you are visiting with younger children, the ethnobotanical garden affords a hands-on experience of grinding corn in the same manner as the Salado, and the museum has multiple stone rubbing opportunities and a pottery touch table.
Besh hosts educational lectures and book signings throughout the year, but my favorite event is the annual Festival of Lights. With over 5,000 luminaria planned, guests are invited to come Saturday, December 7 from 5-9 pm to walk the peaceful candlelit setting while enjoying performances by Native American dancers and musicians. Local food trucks and vendors have been invited and a free shuttle will be provided from Globe High School to alleviate parking challenges. Guests are encouraged to bring canned food donations for the Gila County Food Bank. The Festival of Lights is a wonderful gift to the community from the City of Globe.
To get to Besh, head 1 mile southwest of downtown Globe to get to 1324 S. Jesse Hayes Road. Follow the signs to the Besh ba Gowah parking area. Interested in reading more Globetrotting posts about unique treasures of our area? Go to https://acornconsulting.org/blog/