Harold Sellers Colton, who gave the Sinagua the name by which we know them, began the first archeological survey of Walnut Canyon in 1921. By 1930, stimulated by Colton and his wife Mary's enthusiasm, Flagstaff residents founded the Museum of Northern Arizona. In 1932, Colton and colleague Lyndon Hargrave finished the first excavation and restoration of a Walnut Canyon ruin.
Between 1940 and 1985, archeologists conducted 17 studies at the Monument. They have completely surveyed both the north and south canyon rims and most of the canyon itself. The surface archaeological data of the Sinagua include cliff dwellings, pueblos, field houses, pithouses, a community room, fortifications, petroglyphs and extensive artifact scatters, in spite of the fact that extensive looting occurred for more than half a century. On the south rim, 38 sites have been recorded, while 104 sites are recorded on the north rim.
The oldest artifact discovered at Walnut Canyon is a projectile point dated to 8,000 years ago, a remnant left by hunters and gatherers of the Pinto culture. But it is the Sinagua who were the primary residents of this area between arriving about 500 and disappearing by 1300 AD. These ancient dry farmers are identified by a number of traits including the use of a fine-paste pottery called Alameda Brownware.
Along the rims of Walnut Canyon, evidence of Sinagua farming devices such as check dams are preserved. They are frequent and intact enough to provide the best archaeological evidence of these features in the Flagstaff area. These cultural resources hold nationally significant values for scientific assessment of the prehistoric Sinagua settlement and land-use patterns.
For reasons unknown, the Sinagua abandoned the Walnut Canyon area between 900 and 1100 AD, then returned to build most of the cliff dwellings and occupy the area for the next 200 years. A similar pattern at Wupatki is explained by the eruption of Sunset Crater Volcano.
Text from DesertUSA website.
Map from MapQuest.