The Doheny Expedition to the Hava Supai Canyon

Vine Deloria, noted author of "Custer Died for Your Sins" and other books, and past executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, notes in "Red Earth, White Lies" that:

   In October and November 1924, a scientific expedition led by
   Samuel Hubbard, curator of archaeology at the Oakland Museum,
   Charles W Gilmore, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the
   United States National Museum, and funded by the oil magnate
   about to be discredited, E. L. Doheny, went to Havasuapi Canyon
   in northern Arizona to search for evidence of prehistoric man.
   Hubbard and Doheny had visited this area before, Doheny as a young
   prospector and Hubbard as a scientist.

One notes immediately that the people involved in this expedition have serious credentials. Similarly, many people hearing of scientific report reputedly documenting a sauropod image petroglyph will expect the material to come from some little-known fundamentalist religious college; that does not appear to be the case in this instance:

Deloria Continues:

   Following the "Tobocobe Trail" to where it intersects with
   Lee Canyon, the party soon discovered what they described as
   "wall pictures," figures scratched long, long ago depicting the
   local fauna.The most spectacular of these pictures was one of a
   dinosaur, identified by them as Diplodocus, standing upright.

   Just as spectacular, however, were other discoveries in the
   canyon. In Hubbard's words: "On the same wall with the
   dinosaur pictograph, and about 16 feet from it, we found a
   pictograph representing an animal which was evidently
   intended for an elephant, attacking a large man. The elephant is
   striking the man on the top of his head with its trunk. The
   wavy line represents water into which the man has retreated up
   to his knees. Both arms are upraised and the fingers are visible
   on one hand. . . . Because there are no tusks indicated our
   surmise is that it is a cow elephant."24 This pictograph scene
   accurately depicts the manner in which scholars believe that
   man hunted the mammoth  an ambush at a waterhole; and in
   southern Arizona there are several sites which have man and
   mammoth remains together in an obvious hunting format,
   with butchering marks on the mammoth's bones...

   ...on part of the plateau above the canyon floor was found an
   ancient megalithic fortress.

   This whole discussion would seem to beg the imagination
   and certainly many scholars, when reminded of it, simply say,
   "Oh, that old thing," as if it had been satisfactorily explained
   decades ago. But it has not been explained in any satisfactory
   manner. Orthodox scholars simply omit it from consideration
   altogether, as they would with any bit of evidence that shakes
   the foundations of accepted scientific belief...

Professor Deloria was kind enough to send me a copy of these materials, and they read as follows:


THE Doheny Scientific Expedition to the Hava Supai Canyon in Northern Arizona, was organized for the express purpose of bring- ing before the scientific world, certain discoveries relating to pre historic man made by the writer, in three previous visits to this isolated region. It so happened that Mr. E. L. Doheny of Los Angeles, who sponsored the expedition, had visited this canyon as a young prospector, in 1879. He and his party were among the first white men to venture into this wild place, and the hardships they endured, and the dangers they faced were made apparent by the fact that one of their party, a sailor named Mooney, lost his life while trying to descend below the fall which to this day bears his name.

The Expedition

(1924 photography and several photostats later...)

The Hava Supai Canyon is formed by Cataract Creek which rises on Mt. Bill Williams and joins the great Colorado river about 150 miles west of the Bright Angel Trail (see sketch map). After meandering over the high plains for 50 miles this stream suddenly forms a "Box Canyon". Starting on top of the "old Red Sandstone" of the carboniferous (Supai formation") it eats its way deeper and deeper into this formation, with the red walls rising ever higher on either side.

About 30 miles from the head of the "Box Canyon," the red walls widen out to form a secluded little valley which is a veritable oasis in a vast wilderness of rocks. Here the government maintains the Supai Indian Agency which administers to the needs of 186 Supai Indians.

The place where the walls begin to widen is the contact between the red sandstone and the Silurian lime. Out of this contact flows a mysterious subterranean river which never varies summer or winter. This river flows through the valley for about 3 miles and then forms three beautiful falls on its way to join the Colorado.

The water is slightly warm at the point of emergence and is so sur- charged with lime that everything coming in contact with it for any length of time is turned into limestone. Notwithstanding this it is a good drink- ing water and the Indians use it to irrigate their helds. The arable land is only about 500 acres in extent and this water is the factor which makes it possible for these Indians to live there.

That this water supply was a potent factor in the lives of prehistoric people is evidenced by the manw inscriptions on the walls of this canyon which it is the purpose of this pamphlet to describe.

The Government Survey gives the elevation of this valley as 3195 feet above sea level, while the higher surrounding plains are from 6200 to 6700 feet in elevation.

To reach this valley from the El Tovar Hotel it is now possible to go 35 miles by automobile to the Government warehouse at the "Hill Top". At this point the ~Tobocobe Trail" proceeds down Lee Canyon to its junction with the main Supai and thence down the Supai Canyon to the Village" or Agency, a total distance of about 15 miles.

This canyon was first visited by the writer in November, 1894, and in February and March, 1895. Most of the matters of prehistoric interest described in this pamphlet, were observed at that time but their true significance was not fully recognized. Endeavors were made at various times to interest scientists in this discovery, but without avail.

It is only within the past two or three years that discoveries made in Yucatan, Mexico, and the western states prove to the most conserva- tive that a race or races of men of very great antiquity inhabited North America.

The fact that some prehistoric man made a pictograph of a dinosaur on the walls of this canyon upsets completely all of our theories regarding the antiquity of man. Facts are stubborn and immutable things. If theories do not square with the facts then the theories must change, the facts remain.

It is our endeavor to set forth, as clearly and briefly as possible, the facts exactly as we found them, and give an outline of the conclusions to be drawn from them.

The Doheny Scientific Expedition wishes to make grateful acknowl- edgment to Mr. Stephen Mather, Director of National Parks, for his assistance in sending Mr. Charles W. Gilmore of the National Museum, as a scientist attached to our party. Also to acknowledge the courtesies extended by Park Director Eakin of the Grand Canyon National Park and by Chief Ranger Scoyen, and to Mr. and Mrs. Lovenskiold, Indian Agent at the Supai Reservation. Also to the Harvey people at El Tovar for prompt service and competent assistants.

Thanks are also due to Mr. Howard Throckmorton of Los Angeles, for his friendly interest and constructive help toward the success of the undertaking. To each member of the expedition thanks are extended for loyal and competent service under conditions calling for some hardships and some danger.

THE Doheny Scientific Expedition left Los Angeles on the morning of October 23d, 1924, by the Santa Fe Railway, for the El Tovar Hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado river in Northern Arizona. Our destination was the Hava Supai Indian Reserva- tion some 55 miles southwest from the El Tovar Hotel.

We sent our mules on a day ahead to the Government warehouse at'the head of the Tobocobe Trail leading into the Hava Supai Canyon. The next day we loaded a truck with supplies and camping equipment, and, overtaking the mules at noon, we arrived at the Supai village that same night. With an abundance of water and hay for our mules, we made this fertile little valley our headquarters during our investigations in this canyon.

THE Dinosaur Pictograph

The Tobocobe Trail" after leaving the "Warehouse" at the Hill Top, makes its way for about six miles down Lee Canyon, a tributary canyon to the main canyon of the Supai. Just at the junction of these two canyons are the most important wall pictures so far discovered.

They are on a large wall of the lower red sandstone of the Carbon- iferous, and up some twenty feet or more from a bench on which some mesquite trees are growing. Some narrow ledges, about one foot wide, give access to these pictures, but in order to photograph them we found it necessary to pack some long timbers and some lumber from our camp six miles away.

We constructed a platform or parallel and with the assistance of this implement we were able to focus our cameras and secure good photographs.

Note that the pictographs are very old
and that Michelangelo and Rembrandt were obviously not involved...

Most of these pictographs are exposed to the weather without the suggestion of a cave or an overhanging ledge. As they are all made in much the same way one description will do for all of them.

How The Pictographs Are Made

The red sandstone contains a trace of iron. This iron, through the alchemy of unknown ages of time, forms a thin black scale on the surface of the stone, locally called the "Desert Varnish". By taking any sharp point, such as a piece of flint, and cutting through this black surface, the red stone is revealed underneath, thus making a picture, without the use of pigment, which is practically imperishable. The only way one of these pictographs can disappear is to weather off. They show every sign of a great antiquity, and in the thirty years they have been known to the writer there is not the slightest change noticeable.

The accompanying halftone, taken from a photograph made by Robert L. Carson of San Gabriel, California, gives a better idea of the figure than any description can possibly attempt to do. The fact that the animal is upright and balanced on its tail would seem to indicate that the prehistoric artist must have seen it alive.

That dinosaurs were in the vicinity, is proved by the tracks we dis- covered, which were identified by Mr. Gilmore as belonging to one of the carnivorous dinosaurs. These tracks were in the "Painted Desert" not over 100 miles from the picture.

The dimensions of the figure are as follows: Total height 11.2 inches; greatest width, 7 inches; length of leg, 3.8 inches; length of body, 3.9 inches; width of body, 3 inches; length of neck to top of curve, 3.5 inches; length of tail (approximately) 9.1 inches; length of neck (approximately) 5.' inches.

The under cut which outlined this figure was so deep that an excellent cast was made of it by J. F. Roop and Fred V. Shaw. The dimensions given above were made from this cast.

On the same wall were a number of other figures of goat-like creatures, serpents, and unknown forms. The most remarkable of these was a row of symbols, deeply incised, which resembled the Greek sign of Mars showing shield and spear, thus 4 . The "desert varnish" had commenced to form in the cut, indicating an unbelievable antiquity.

About a year ago a photograph of the "dinosaur" was shown to a scientist of national repute, who was then specializing in dinosaurs. He said, "It is not a dinosaur, it is impossible, because tve know that dinosaurs were extinct 12 million years before man appeared on earth."

Kipling says in his poem "The Benefactors":

"Ah what avails the classic bent,
And what the cultured word,
Against the undoctored incident,
That actually occurred."

If the reader agrees that this is a "dinosaur" then we are face to face with one of two conclusions. Either man goes back in Geologic time to the Triassic period, which is millions of years beyond anything yet admitted, or else there were "left over" dinosaurs which came down into the age of mammals. Yet even this last conclusion indicates a vast antiquity.

The next question is, what kind of a man? Was he a low-browed, big- jawed ape-like creature of small intelligence, the man who drew this picture a million or more years ago, or was he a being more after our own image?

Is it not true that this mute picture on the wall of this lonely canyon in far off Ariiona is "like a voice calling in the wilderness," that is eloquent of many things.

It says "the man who drew me made and used tools. He had the patience to chip an outline in hard stone with a crude flint and he had the perseverance to finish the job. He had an eye for form and a sense of proportion. He had the good judgment to select a medium which has preserved his work through unguessed ages, almost untouched by the obliterating hand of Time. He posted a warning to his fellows, 'beware of this creature, it is dangerous to man"'. He felt that same urge to create something, which links us to the Gods. We submit, in the face of this evidence, that the "ape-man", (if there ever has been such a creature), is buried still deeper in the overwhelming ages of time.

THE Dinosaur Tracks

Out on the edge of the "Painted Desert" we found dinosaur tracks. We went by automobile from the El Tovar hotel, eastward through the Coconino forest. Descending a long ridge we finally came to the Little Colorado river which we crossed on a fine suspension bridge. About eight miles this side of Tuba City we came to the tracks in the floor of the desert. They were immediately identified by Mr. Gilmore as dinosaur footprints. More than that he pronounced them to be the tracks of a carnivorous dinosaur because the claw marks were plainly visible.

The pink cliffs of the "Jura", with all their magnificent coloration, were close by, so it was easy to determine the formation as belonging to the Triassic period. The tracks were impressed in the sandy shore of what had once been an ancient lake or sea, but the sand had long since turned into stone. Three different species seemed to be represented, for there were tracks of three individuals of different sizes.

A clqud-burst had washed away the sand, exposing these tracks to view. There was quite a large adjacent area still covered by a foot or more of sand which doubtless contains more tracks.

The largest tracks were i6 inches long by 14 inches wide and 52 inches from heel to heel. Between two of the tracks were two hollow depressions which were thought to be where the end of the tail had touched, in balancing the animal.

We made plaster casts of the large tracks, made a moving picture of the casting process and took still pictures as well. It is significant that the dinosaur tracks were not over 100 miles from the dinosaur picture.

The Elephant Pictures

On the same wall with the dinosaur pictograph, and about 15 feet from it, we found a pictograph representing an animal which was evidently intended for an elephant, attacking a large man. The elephant is striking the man on the top of his head with its trunk. The wavy line represents water into which the man has retreated up to his knees. Both arms are upraised and the fingers are visible on one hand. The other hand holds something, the form of which is too vague to be determined. Because there are no tusks indicated our surmise is that it is a cow elephant.

The remains of elephants are very common all over North America, and they are found from Alaska to Mexico. Three species are represented: the mammoth, the mastodon and the imperial elephant (elephas imperator) of California. A complete skeleton of this latter animal was exhumed from the La Brea deposit in the city of Hollywood, and is now on exhibition in the Los Angeles museum. The remains of 28 individuals were found in one tar pit. The restored skeleton stands 14 feet high.

We think it probable that the pictograph is intended to represent the California variety. It is apparent that if the man and the elephant are drawn to the same scale, the man is taller than the elephant. In other words the man is more than 14 feet high.

This prehistoric tragedy is significant of several things. Did the men of that day have a taste for elephant meat and prey on the elephant calves? The attack of an infuriated cow elephant whose baby has been slain, can be easily understood.

Dr. Frederick A. Lucas, Director of the American Museum of Natural History [fragment lost in photostating] He believes man and the elephant were coeval in America, yet there is no record so far produced that proves this beyond a reasonable doubt.

Here, on this canyon wall, some prehistoric man has not only drawn an elephant, but he has drawn an elephant attacking a man We submit this drawing as confirming Dr. Lucas' belief and proving the case.

There is no means by which we can tell whether the elephant was drawn before or after the dinosaur.

The dinosaur figure is cut into the sandstone much more deeply than the elephant. It was possible to make a good plaster cast of the dinosaur, but not possible to cast the elephant. Our surmise is that the two figures were made by different people and at different times and in a slightly different way. As stated before, the symbols near the dinosaur figure in which the desert varnish' has formed in the cut, have a character all their own, and probably in point of time, precede all the others.

The elephant figure measures approximately 7.5 inches high, and 10.3 inches long, not including the trunk. The man's figure from the knees to the top of the head is about 7 inches high.


In three different places in this canyon we found ihex pictured on the walls. One group, showing a male and two females, was right under the elephant picture, but close to the ground. These showed the effects of weathering and were quite indistinct. The next in importance was a beautiful panel about a mile up Lee Canyon from its junction with the main Supai Canyon. This was a smooth face of red sandstone on the side of a huge boulder.

There was no black surface on this stone so the figures were beauti- fully carved, about a quarter of an inch deep. This whole panel showed a very high type of workmanship and was quite different from the cruder work just described. In order that there might be no mistake about it, mountain sheep were shown on the same panel with the ibex.

The scene represented seems to show several hunters driving seven ibex and two deer into a trap or up a pass. Roy Chapman Andrews, who has hunted ibex in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, pronounced these to be ibex for the reason that the characteristic knobs on the front of the horns are faithfully represented in the carving.

The interesting thing about this is, that no ibex, not even fossil ones, have ever been found in America. These drawings would seem to indi- cate that they must have been a common animal in the Grand Canyon region, in the prehistoric past.

In a cave near Alpera, in Spain, there are drawings representing people like American Indians, hunting ibex with bow and arrow. From Spain to Arizona is "a far cry"- (see Illustrated London News of Dec. # 20th, 1919).


In the Supai language the word "Couda-pahvich", freely translated means "big Indian long time dead". The abbreviated word "Couda-pah" means any prehistoric picture, track or relic belonging to the Past. The longer ago it was the longer they accent the word "Couda".

About a half mile down the main Supai Canyon from the wall pictures just deszribed, there is a mysterious stone figure embedded into the walls of the canyon. The Indians claim this was once a living woman whose body was turned into stone by the action of the lime in the water. Beside her lies her baby, wrapped in skins, also solid stone.

This body is about 60 feet straight up from the present floor of the canyon, and can only be closely examined by making a long detour through a side canyon. This gives access to a table of rock above the body. From this point a descent, involving considerable risk, must be made to the figure by means of a rope ladder. From the body down to the stream bed, the wall is perpendicular, so that a mishap here would be serious.

The figure lies face downward, with arms extended, therefore no features are visible. The object is in a sort of a flat crevice with an over- hanging roof. This has protected it somewhat from the weather and from falling rocks. It has weathered to a shiny black color. As it is pure lime- stone, bedded into red sandstone without a sign of a joint, this precludes any suggestion of a carving.

Owing to the danger involved, and to the overhanging crevice which leaves the figure in the shade, it is not possible to make a satisfactory photograph, so none is offered here.

Mr. Gilmore made a hasty examination of the figure and believed it to be an aggregation of limestone in the form of a human being. He admitted however, that there were some points in favor of the belief of the Indians.

The head is somewhat flattened, but the back, thighs, buttocks and a fragment of the fore arm are very much like a human being. The body measures five and one half feet from the top of the head to the end of the spine, involving a total height of between eleven and twelve feet.

While it is quite true that Nature makes many freaks, resembling all sorts of things, yet we feel there is enough doubt in this whole matter to warrant a more complete examination by a party prepared to spend the necessary time.

The Ancient Fortress

Out on that part of the plateau known as "The Thumb", a huge slab of limestone has slipped away from the main wall and stands like an isolated "island of stone", on the very brink of the Grand Canyon.

There is a steep sided gully between it and the main wall, and by worming up a crevice an active man may reach the top. It is a good bow- shot from the shore of this island to the main land, but on the other side there is a sickening drop of some 3000 feet straight down to the inner gorge of the Colorado.

On the side toward the gully, a low wall of cyclopean blocks of stone has been constructed. How those immense blocks of stone were hoisted up there is a mystery. The whole refuge is not over 200 feet long by 50 or 60 feet wide. It was evidently a place of last resort from which there was no escape.

Whatever heroic deeds have been done here will never be known, for the present Indians have never used it, and know practically nothing about it. Mr. Gilmore picked up an arrow-point and some shards of pottery on the top of this fortress. These were identified in Washington as belonging to a pre-Pueblo culture and were evidently very ancient.


In conclusion we would like to point out jhat there are miles upon miles of this Grand Canyon region which no white man has ever seen. We have found enough to convince us that it is a veritable mine of arch- aeological treasures. There is enough in sight now to keep a party going for several seasons.

Not far from this "Fortress", in the main Grand Canyon we found some 'tracks" which even Mr. Gilmore himself was at a loss to explain. They were either in the red sandstone of the Carboniferous, where such tracks are not supposed to be, or they were impressed in the mud of a river channel at a later date. The Colorado river was at this level when the tracks were made. Since then it has kept on about its business and cut its gorge some 2500 feet deeper.

The lapse of time as shown in this canyon is so tremendous that it is simply overwhelming. It makes our little year of 365 days seem trifling. Has not the time arrived when we must devise a new "unit of measure to block off these great "Periods of the Past?" Must we not readjust many of our ideas regarding the antiquity of man, and his contact with the prehistoric animals, which have gone, to return no more?

Perhaps if we can find out where we came from and what we came from, it may help us to get a little glimpse ahead along the "Trail of Life" we are now so painfully following. It may help us to solve the great riddle of the Universe: "Where do we go from here?"