A look at a serpent monument – a Quetzalcoatl-like icon – that was found at a pueblo near Springerville, Arizona.

To our modern perspective, where driving an hour across town can feel like an Odyssey and reading an entire article on the internet, versus watching a video, can feel like a trial of patience beyond endurance, the concept of carrying wisdom thousands of miles, on foot, to a new village and sharing it with such passion that it has the power to transform local paradigms is awe inspiring. This is why the universality of the serpent Quetzalcoatl in the Americas is so fascinating.

In its most simplistic manifestation, it is the “water snake”, the ultimate icon of life-giving, crop-sustaining hydration in a desert landscape. In its exalted form, the Quetzalcoatl also refers to the return of the long lost white brother to “the people”, bringing wisdom attained through challenging travels.  Cut to Cortez being mistaken for this Quetzalcoatl, welcomed with ceremony, then slaughtering the Aztecs, etc…. etc… ad infinitum. But today we talk about a serpent monument that was found at a pueblo near Springerville, Arizona.

The monument was found and mistreated as a plaything, yard ornament, and curiosity for many years until it was fixed into a secure metal base and housed in the Casa Malpais Archaeological Park & Museum.

John A. Ruskamp explains about the statue in his paper entitled, “The Hooper Ranch Pueblo Sun Dagger Shrine Revisited – Revealing Greater Regional Significance” of 2013.

A very large serpentine statue, embellished with a pair of carved eyes, nostrils, a “blow hole,” and a slightly smiling mouth was removed from the site. The features of this massive ancient effigy are reminiscent of those found on effigies of the Great Water Serpent, Quetzalcoatl, in meso-America, and of the physical characteristics of the great North American water serpent god, called “Kolowisi” by the Zuni people , and Palulukang by the Hopi, to which they directed their prayers for the blessings of rain and snow.

For many years, this carved stone effigy was on public display outside of the Becker Mercantile Company in Springerville, Arizona. Certainly, the size of this statue indicates that it was very important to the ancient people who created it. However, its existence was either unknown or ignored by the archaeologists who excavated the Hooper Ranch Pueblo site, as they make no mention of it in their site reports.


These are the photos I took of what’s left of the serpent at Malpais.

You can see a blow hole on top of the head, an eye and the mouth.
It seems to have a blow hole.
This photo was taken in the early 1900s.


Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 10.08.59 PM
Ruskamp includes this image in his 2013 paper to demonstrate its similarity to the Springerville snake.

The Quetzalcoatl icon is shared throughout all the Americas and I think it is interesting to ponder whether it came from North America and traveled south, or vice versa, or from Central and moved out. Depending on what I read the answer seems different. I’m tending think that these ideas came uniformly from the West, over the seas, and hit the western coast of all of the Americas in waves, but I am not the oracle on such topics, I am a humble student trying to draw my own conclusions based on growing knowledge of this vast and complicated topic.

Have you seen any water snake statues elsewhere in the Americas that also have blowholes on top of their heads?

Ruskamp’s article is available in its entirety on Academa.edu https://www.academia.edu/5814900/The_Hooper_Ranch_Pueblo_Sun_Dagger_Shrine_Revisited_-_Revealing_Greater_Regional_Significance

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