Message #5:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Murray Springs AZ (Scientists Claim BLM Fumbled Responsibility)
Date: Tue, 6 Jan 1998 

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

original at

Key early human site in disarray 

By Mark Muro, Globe Correspondent, 12/29/97 
CHARLESTON, Ariz. - One of the most famous archeological finds in
America lies unheralded in a dusty arroyo just south of here. 

Only the wind visits this place, reached by a rough trail from an unmarked
lot. Yet in the 1960s, at a place called Murray Springs, scientists unearthed
evidence of an astonishing face-off between Ice Age humans - perhaps the
first people in America - and the Pleistocene mammoths, bison and camels
they hunted with stone-tipped spears. 

Before Murray Springs, no one had ever found an undisturbed dwelling
place of the Clovis people, so named for another early site in New Mexico
that bears their imprint. But here the walls of a bleak dry wash running to the
ancient San Pedro River yielded nothing less than an 11,000-year-old
hunters' camp. Two dismembered mammoth carcasses and the bones of at
least 13 extinct bison lay strewn amid their own tracks. Broken bones and
bone fragments littered some areas, along with 16 chipped projectile points
and stone tools. And across one footprint lay a foot-long bone tool, perhaps
a spear-straightener, broken in half by a mammoth foot. 

It was a stunning discovery. 

But now, a group of scientists and others say the US Bureau of Land
Management, which controls Murray Springs and another classic
man-mammoth site, is fumbling its responsibility to protect and showcase an
amazing resource. 

''The Clovis sites and fossil beds near here make the San Pedro Valley
almost an Olduvai Gorge of North America, yet little is being done to
preserve or tell their story,'' says C. Vance Haynes, Jr., a leading
Paleo-Indian geoarcheologist and professor at the University of Arizona. 

And Paul Martin, the emeritus director of that university's Desert
Laboratory, is adamant. ''Maybe it's going to take an angel, but hey,
something's got to be done,'' Martin says, leaning on his walking staff
surveying the arroyo. ''These are the first Americans we're talking about, yet
no one knows them. We should be telling this story.''

Martin's exasperation is understandable. Clovis man, and Murray Springs,
address the very onset of New World habitation. The Clovis mammoth
hunters and their families appeared suddenly about 13,000 years ago, and
they make up the earliest widespread culture scientists agree about in the

Probably they were the first colonists here. Apparently, say Martin and
others, these Stone Age hunter-gatherers filtered into Alaska from Siberia,
wandering across the flat land bridge called Beringia. 

They happened onto a continent of plenty. 

The life that ensued, moreover, is the story that emerged better than
anywhere else from the Murray Springs hunting camp and a few nearby
sites. Here, in ancient times, a Serengeti, a New World Eden, awaited the
newcomers. In addition to mammoths and bison, the landscape teemed with
now-vanished mega-fauna: dire wolves, tapirs, camels, big saber-toothed
cats. These the new American hunters slaughtered, and it is this red-meat
culture that San Pedro's archeology documents. So suggestive was that
record of an efficient hunting culture that it led Paul Martin to frame his
controversial ''blitzkrieg'' theory, now supported by Harvard biologist E.O.
Wilson, holding that Clovis people essentially cleared North America of

What is not controversial is the historical importance of the San Pedro finds,
especially Murray Springs and another nearby on the land of rancher Ed Lehner. 

And that is why Martin and Haynes, along with the Southwest Center for
Biological Diversity, a regional environmental group, have lately become
disturbed by the obscurity into which the sites have been allowed to fall. 

The neglect began, paradoxically, when the sites were ''protected'' by being
designated as the San Pedro national conservation area in 1988. Before
then, as discovery followed discovery from the late 1950s to the 1970s, the
public had become at least casually aware of the astonishing picture of
lumbering mammoths and Ice Age hunting bands emerging from the washes
of the valley. Moreover, Ed Lehner proved a charismatic and
knowledgeable tour guide. 

However, the enthusiastic stewardship waned with the creation of the
National Conservation Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
A land trade conveyed Murray Springs to the over-extended agency. And
the scene lost its one dependable interpreter when the aging Lehner moved
to Tucson after he donated the Lehner kill site to the conservation area. 

Meanwhile, the bureau did little to present its new treasures to the streams of
birders and Old West tourists visiting the San Pedro valley, with its rare
desert river, booming retirement economy, and cowboy, Indian and mining

The Friends of the San Pedro, a volunteer group, laid out a walking path -
complete with two wood bridges across Curry Draw built with $3,000 from
the bureau - to facilitate a 1990 visit to Murray Springs by a delegation of
Russian archeologists. But efforts to protect and promote the sites soon
faltered. Plans for a special ''mammoth kill'' visitor center collapsed. The
rustic San Pedro House - an old ranch structure that functions as a
volunteer-staffed interpretive center for the conservation area - hands out a
one-page information sheet on the sites but little else. And Friends of the San
Pedro leads only rare docent walks to the sites. 

Meanwhile, pot-hunters and erosion take their toll unchecked. Near the
Lehner site, a dust-devil attends two forlorn bronze plaques on a brick
mount in a roadside turn-out. In one arroyo wall, Haynes notes signs of
bone-digging by wildcat collectors. 

Similar disarray encroaches at Murray Springs. The sign on Moson road has
been shot out. Erosion driven by the pounding summer rains is scouring
away chunks of a site that still promises discoveries. 

''They've really let the place go to seed, [though] there's a potential for more
information,'' says Larry Agenbroad, a geology professor at North Arizona

Last summer, the Tucson-based Southwest Center for Biological Diversity
joined the criticism. The group asked the US attorney to investigate the
Bureau of Land Management for violating federal archeological and
antiquities laws by letting grazing cattle trample prehistoric Indian sites in the

''The mammoth sites on federal land tell our prehistoric past, and the
[bureau] has a responsibility to preserve them,'' says Dr. Robin Silver,
conservation chairman of the Southwest Center. He says the agency is
''doing nothing,'' and because of it ''we're losing these resources.''

For their part, bureau officials cite limited progress, but plead nolo contendre
to the charges. 

They say they hope to complete an interpretive kiosk and signage for
Murray Springs next spring. The agency has hired an archeologist to tend the
Clovis sites and other resources. The agency's Tucson office is asking
$110,000 from the bureau to improve stewardship and to install a dam to
divert rainy season torrents from Murray Spring. 

Still, outdoor recreation planner Dorothy Morgan says simply: ''There's
never any funding.''

To which Paul Martin answers: ''Yes, I'm sure that's true. The place is being
left to the wind and rain.''

Back at Murray Springs one morning not long ago, Martin and Vance
Haynes were poking about in the dust again, picking at the soil strata in an
old trench. 

''That's your Coro marl; there's your Clanton black mat,'' Haynes kept
saying, neatly scraping fresh faces on sediments with a trowel. Yet soon the
scientists' shop-talk moved to the plea for a Clovis man interpretive center
near this brushy piece of nowhere. 

Martin crusades for development of the place by the bureau - ''or
someone!'' - so ''your grandchildren can learn this patrimony and get to
touch models of a mammoth hunters' tool kit.''

Haynes sketches a specific plan, which he has transmitted to the bureau,
including a major attraction that would add stops at the Lehner site to a full
reconstruction of the Murray Springs excavation. He urges the use of soil
cement to recreate the discovery, complete with models of the bison and
mammoth bones, and imitation Clovis spear points and other tools scattered

''Up here on the bench you'd have a visitor center with a big picture
window,'' Haynes suggests, ''and down below you'd reconstruct the feel of
discovery by having people walk into the arroyo and the excavations. ''It
could be half-day immersion in a drama.''

[ SASIG Ed. Note -- see Murray Springs Also see BLM Response ]