|25 January 2009
Ancient village found on U.S.-Mexico border
The construction of the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2007 led to the find of a prehistoric village east of the San Pedro River. "The San Pedro is a special place," said archaeologist Maren Hopkins, the project director. Hopkins said the village was probably the biggest data recovery project that she has directed.
Evidence found at the Upper San Pedro Village indicates that it was a crossroads, or a type of 'gateway community,' said Hopkins. "It's sort of an area that's on the periphery of a lot of other areas that we do understand," Hopkins said. "It's a peripheral site to the Tucson Basin … it's peripheral to all these areas. So these people were kind of a mix of people. It was frontier then, just like it is now."
The village is believed to have existed from around 700 to 1200 CE, Hopkins said, based on ceramics analysis. There appear to be some Hohokam characteristics, but it is yet uncertain exactly who lived there. Archaeologists found 23 pit houses, 14 possible pit houses, 97 thermal pits, a number of storage pits, five dog burials and 69 human burials. As is customary in this region, the human remains have all been repatriated to the Tohono O'Odham Indian Reservation.
There was an interesting artifact found at the site that Hopkins had not seen before. She calls it a 'stone jaw bone.' It has a serrated edge, and she firmly believes it was used for scraping animal hides. Several of these implements were found at the site, which also yielded "more deer bone than I've ever seen in my life," she said.
The archaeologists had to deal with multiple jurisdictions and a lot of curious people. "We just had people around us all the time," she said. Mexican archaeologists were among the interested parties, and their American counterparts are collaborating with them as always, Hopkins said. One restriction posed by the U.S. government was that the archaeologists could only dig 5 feet deep, because that was as far as they were digging for the fence's footers. Below that depth, "The archaeology, I guarantee, keeps going," Hopkins said. On another axis, the archaeologists were allowed to dig to a limit of 60 feet wide. This 'stripping' method of archaeology, done mainly by backhoe, ultimately extended for three-tenths of a mile and excavated 7,500 tons of soil from three-fourths of an acre. The site has been reburied. Hopkins has not been back there for many months. "There's a fence there now," she said.
Source: The Sierra Vista Herald (19 January 2009), Nogales International (20 January 2009)
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