Romero Ruins

Historic Building Fact Sheet

romero ruins

The remaining walls of a small house built by Francisco Romero in the middle 1800s. (Feb. 2024) Photo credit: Jake Case

Need to Know Info

 

Built500 (approximate earliest Hohokam settlement), 1850 (approximate settlement by Francisco Romero)
AddressCatalina State Park
11570 North Oracle Road
Tucson, Arizona
Coordinates32°25’21.3″N 110°54’53.1″W

The Romero Ruins site contains archaeological remains of Indigenous Hohokam pit houses and walled villages dating between 500-1500 CE as well as remnants of Spanish rancher Francisco Romero’s mid-1800s homestead, providing a unique opportunity to study shifting habitation of the location over a vast 1000+ year timespan.

While looting previously damaged portions of the site, current state park stewardship now preserves and protects the cultural history encapsulated in these ruins for future research and education.

The In-Depth Story

The Romero Ruins Site: Over 1,000 years of Human History

Nestled within the hills Arizona’s Catalina State Park lie the Romero Ruins, an archaeologically significant site containing remnants of both Indigenous and colonial settlement spanning over a thousand years of habitation. The ruins offer a unique glimpse into the daily lives of multiple cultures across the centuries through the remnants of their homes and villages.

The earliest evidence of organized human settlement dates back to around 500 CE, linked to remains from what archaeologists classify as Indigenous Hohokam peoples that inhabited much of what is now Southern Arizona for over a millennium. The Hohokam constructed pit house dwellings by excavating large pits and building frames of wooden poles and brush which were then covered with mud plaster to make them weatherproof. While no intact pit homes survive at the Romero Ruins today, the archaeological record confirms a sizeable Hohokam village was located upon the elevated ridge continuing through 1150 CE, likely once home to over 300 individuals.

Excavations have revealed portions of a large stone and earthen wall spanning over five feet in height that the Hohokam constructed around the village sometime after 1150 CE, potentially for reasons ranging from defense and privacy to defining communal boundaries. This walled enclosure likely housed under a hundred Hohokam, with the population size having diminished from the site’s earlier peak centuries.

Two ballcourts are also visible within the site, and excavations revealed multiple rubber balls with which the Hohokam played their games. A large trash mound containing centuries of disposed pottery also supports evidence of the Hohokam’s millenia spent here. Continual occupation lasted until approximately 1500 CE when the Hohokam ultimately abandoned the settlement.

Fast forward some 300 years, the remains of early Spanish settler and rancher Francisco Romero’s homestead constitute the youngest archaeological site preserved within the park. Constructed of crumbling cobblestone likely built before 1850, rancher Romero resided an isolated 12 miles from Tucson in a dwelling that endured scores of raids from Apache tribes intent on stealing cattle. By 1870, records show Romero elected to abandon the frequently attacked homestead.

After decades of unchecked looting from illegitimate treasure hunters chasing fictional tales of buried gold, the establishment of Catalina State Park offered formal protection for the invaluable cultural history encapsulated by the Romero Ruins site. Severe penalties now guard against unauthorized digging or theft of artifacts within the park boundaries. Through conserved ruins spanning ancient pit dwellings and enclosed villages to early colonial ranch homes, the Romero site stands as a one-of-a-kind bridge connecting Arizona’s diverse cultural stories over 10 centuries.