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Archeologists Discover Prehistoric Village

National Park News

Earlier this year, Tumacacori partnered with the University of Arizona and Desert Archaeology, Inc., to conduct an archaeological field school in the park’s Guevavi Unit. Test excavations were completed on both NPS land and land owned by the City of Nogales.

Archaeologists from the Tohono O’odham Nation also participated, monitoring the excavations and providing insight into tribal perspectives. Students from Tucson area high schools also participated in field and lab work as part of the NPS-funded Latino Initiative.

The goals of the field school were to test archaeological features exposed in a road to determine the nature of the features and to salvage information. Previous archaeological research failed to locate evidence for prehistoric occupation at Guevavi.

Results of the field school far exceeded expectations, with the discovery of a prehistoric pit-house village, several roasting pits, and a Spanish period adobe structure. Limited testing was completed at the Guevavi Mission midden in a portion heavily impacted by rodent activity and slope erosion. Desert Archaeology Inc. donated the use of an aerial photography drone, resulting in the identification of vegetation alignments representing walls and rooms which may be Spanish corrals and outbuildings.

While further investigations are needed, initial results suggest that the prehistoric village is a Hohokam settlement dating to at least the Middle Rincon phase (AD 1000-1100). Due to the orientation of the houses and similarity to other villages in the river valley, it is estimated that the village may total up to 40 houses. Artifacts, soil samples, and charcoal are still being analyzed, but the results suggest that this village may be the largest southernmost Hohokam village in the Santa Cruz River Valley.

An adobe structure near the NPS boundary was also tested and appears to date to the Spanish period, but further testing is needed to confirm its age and function. It is possible that this structure is one of three churches built at the site between 1691 and 1751. Another field school is planned for FY14 with the goal of further defining the prehistoric village and Spanish structures.

This project highlights how partnerships can be used to leverage resources to achieve results far beyond what the staff from one small park could achieve alone.


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