Bedrock Mortars

Bedrock mortars seen in Javelina Wash. Two round pits are seen carved into the bedrock with desert riparian vegetation in the background.
Bedrock mortars in Javelina Wash, Rincon Mountains

NPS Photo

Bedrock mortars, also called molcajetes (mol-ka-HEH-tes), are almost always found along streams in Saguaro National Park, usually where there is a perennial tinaja or spring. They are typically round in shape and were used by native people with a pestle or tejolote (te-ho-LO-te) to grind mesquite beans and other native plant seeds into food. Bedrock mortars often occur in clusters, with mortars of different sizes and depths carved into the hard metamorphic bedrock known as gneiss (nīs), which may also offer healthful minerals within it.

Last updated: April 4, 2021

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