Message #256:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Hohokam Article In Southwest Contractor
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 97 09:39:00 MST


[ ADOT was mentioned in the article, but they have nothing to do with the 
MCDOT project -- SASIG Ed.]

From:  Brian Kenny 

Seeking modern solutions to historic problems

Maricopa County Department of Transportation and the Arizona Department of 
Transportation have taken measures to prevent unnecessary delays in 
construction when an archeological site is uncovered.

By Danielle Beaugureau

Developing and expanding Arizona's roadways has led to the discovery of many 
ancient ruins in its path, some dating back 1,000 years or more.  If this 
history is not discovered and studied during the pre-planning stages of a 
project, the results can be a loss of time and money for contractors 
involved in the project.

If an archeological site is discovered when a contractor begins construction 
in Arizona, the project must come to a screeching halt.  Maricopa County 
Department of Transportation (MCDOT) and the Arizona Department of 
Transportation (ADOT), however, are taking measures to pre-plan 
archeological studies on sites to prevent unnecessary delays in 
construction.  MCDOT's first staffed archeologist, Brian W Kenny explained 
that the county does all of the site research prior to construction to 
prevent unnecessary expenses and time.  "The problem with a lot of 
archeological sites involving contractors is that they do not do the survey, 
testing and mitigation work up front. So they may go out to do their 
contracting work and suddenly hit a burial and they are required by law to 
stop.  Then they get shut down and that is really expensive," Kenny said.

Most recently, mitigation of such a site pegged for road widening revealed 
three Hohokam subterranean houses near the intersection of Gilbert and 
McDowell roads in Mesa, Ariz.  Often discovered by a variation in the soil 
color, an ancient site is required by state law to be reported and 
mitigated.

A crew of eight to ten archeologists with Dames and Moore, Phoenix, worked 
for five days excavating the site that ultimately will provide valuable 
historic information for the region.  After determining the best method by 
which to excavate a site, the crew begins a painstaking process to record 
the ancient history of the area.

At this site, a backhoe trench was cut through the site to lift a portion of 
the overburden and is then carefully dug by hand to get to the pit house 
floor.  Built by the Hohokam Indians approximately 900 years ago, red on 
buff pottery and other artifacts were discovered in the pit houses.

Kenny was hired to determine whether there is any historically significant 
land in the way of new road construction or reconstruction prior to work 
beginning.  In surveying as many as 100 sites a year, Kenny estimated that 
four locations will be tested and of those one will be required to be 
mitigated.

"If we do that in a systematic fashion, we actually save the county money. 
If we time it right, we are not getting equipment out here and then getting 
shut down," Kenny said.  The cost for surveying, testing and mitigating this 
project was $76,000.

Although this particular site is 10 to 15 meters long, only 50 percent of 
the site is excavated for research purposes.  "One way to save a little 
money is to just sample the house.  We've got three houses here but they are 
excavating different portions of it We are hoping to get enough to be able 
to describe all three houses accurately," Kenny said.

Adjacent to the site, a canal system was also excavated.  Based on hundreds 
of deposits in the soil, the size, age and capacity of the canal can be 
determined.  This assists in estimating the historic village's overall 
capacity as well as the relative health of the community at the time.

Kenny explained the discovery of the canal is also a useful tool in 
understanding Arizona's history.  "We get pretty artifacts and they are nice 
to put in museums and look at, but the really important thing that we are 
trying to do is understand human history and human behavior.  We want to 
have an answer to how these people lived, why they made the decisions they 
made and whether those decisions were successful or not successful. 
Sometimes we can see it just by looking in these deposits."

As the site is excavated, the archeologists record the soil types, textures, 
the moisture content and the types of artifacts that are present.  Also, 
charcoal samples are collected to further assess the history of the 
location.  Although no human remains were discovered at this particular 
site, the Arizona Burial Law requires any such discovery to be reported to 
the state museum.

This site, however, proved to be a valuable study for understanding how many 
cultures interacted historically.

"We have got so much going on historically right at this intersection - 
early development of canals, you've got Mormons, Maricopas, private land, 
state and county highways all coming together at the same spot.  This is a 
sort of microcosm of Arizona history in general and how Arizona develops."

Because this was the first site to be studied in the area rich with Mormon, 
Maricopa Indian and Hohokam Indian history, Kenny is applying for a Heritage 
Fund grant to compile the information on a CD-ROM for use as a tool in 
teaching Arizona history to fourth grade classes in the state.

When the environmental work is finished, a technical report will be written, 
the site will then be filled in so the project engineer can begin the 
construction process.

When complete, the project, cost-shared by the City of Mesa and MCDOT, will 
include left turn lanes and traffic signals at the intersection.  Widening 
the intersection requires the asphalt road to be tapered 800 - 1,000 ft. in 
each direction.  The utilities and tailwater ditches along the road will be 
moved and reconstructed.

According to Paul Sullivan, MCDOT's project manager, a dedicated right turn 
lane will be constructed on the westbound lanes for McDowell Road.  Left 
turn lanes on Gilbert and McDowell roads will be added.  Diana Wells, 
engineering designer/utility coordinator for the City of Mesa, is 
responsible for the final design of the project.  According to Wells, 
construction is set to begin by the end of the year and is projected to take 
approximately 90 days.

Kenny has developed a web page to try to answer some of the questions 
contractors have about archeology in the Southwest. The web page, 
Southwestern Archeology, includes an e-mail list of archeologists for 
questions or information, current archeological research done in the 
Southwest, state and federal statutes specific to archeology., state and 
federal regulations, a list of archeological contractors and links to 
archeological data and local current events.

"Contractors often have questions about archeology; it is valuable for them 
to have a resource to answer these questions," Kenny said.  The web address 
is http://www.swanet.org/.

[ Photo / Caption: An archeological team with Dames and Moore, Phoenix 
worked on a site for five days, recording historical data for MCDOT. ]

July 1997 / Southwest contractor