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Prescott Archaeology Proposal

Arizona holds some of the richest archaeology in the United States. The most recognizable and artistic people to once occupy this state are recognized by archaeologists as the prehistoric Hohokam, Pueblo, Sinagua, Salado, and Prescott cultures. Known for their exquisite crafts, monumental constructions, and connections to Mesoamerica (ancient Mexico), many new generation archaeologists such as myself are beginning to reevaluate prehistory. We are quickly coming to the conclusion that all five of these predominant societies were in fact high cultures.

By now readers know that prehistoric people have left their material technologies and culture behind. When we visit a well preserved ruin or pithouse location the appearance of ceramics, stone clippings and sometimes organic materials are quite visible. Because of dry conditions and low humidity, archaeologists have recovered many intact items that have answered previous unknown questions relating to prehistory in Arizona. However, your archaeology is being lost by the day.

I have been working in archaeological research and development and other related fields for over ten years. From my experiences I have noticed the general public wants to preserve the remains of what rests above and below ground. Unfortunately, I can not say the same about leaders from the cities of Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, and Yavapai County. In recent years we have noticed a drastic increase in the destruction and disturbance of archaeological sites. Since May of 2019 I have documented three archaeological sites being destroyed and heavily altered by development and construction efforts. One if these sites might be a large pithouse village dating from 850 – 1250AD.

Several months back Save The Dells proposed a resolution to all council members serving in the city of Prescott. At that meeting over 500 people showed up to express their support for the resolution. In addition, some of us had the opportunity to speak to elected leaders; I was one of them. My goal was to inform them about the sites we are losing, but not even a minute into my speech I was stopped by the Mayor because he “did not want a historical lesson.” One council member said his resolution is to start naming streets after Native people. Needless to say, Save The Dells resolution was unanimously voted down by all elected city leaders.

My goal of this column is to inform the public about what is being lost due to rapid development. I can honestly say with each day that passes, preservation efforts are dwindling away. We are quickly running out of time to save historic and prehistoric sites. Many of you are asking by now, “What can be done?” The good news is, there is a solution. While NAGPRA laws and section 106 of NHPA does not apply to private developers, the city can pass a resolution to help save these irreplaceable sites. We need the city to pass a measure similar to what Phoenix has in place. The measure should require survey work to be conducted prior to development. It should require a site monitor to observe the development that is actively taking place incase cultural items are found. Finally, if items are found, further investigation should be required.

How much would this cost tax payers? Although excavation work might use funds that are granted to Cultural Resource Management firms, the vast majority of this work would not cost a dime. Right now there are many volunteers that would be more than happy to survey and monitor sites before and as they are being developed. These volunteers are not only dedicated in preservation archaeology, but they are knowledgeable in this specialized field. At this point I ask all city and county officials, Are you willing to meet and discuss this issue with me and other trained professionals in archaeology?