Message #89
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 

Date: Fri, 06 Mar 1998
Subject: Tempe Butte Archaeology

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

[ The article fails to mention that archaeological
features -- structures, prehistoric petroglyphs, early
Spanish inscriptions -- are present on Tempe Butte,
immediately to the north across the Salt River, and
immediately to the south of Tempe Butte under ASU campus
parking lots and buildings.  The story needs to be put
into greater context, but that sometimes is the problem
with news reporting of CRM work -- SASIG Ed. ]

Rio Salado Parkway route will travel back in time
By Lisa Gonderinger The Arizona Republic March 5, 1998

Motorists on Tempe's Rio Salado Parkway soon will be
driving over a piece of history. Archaeologists
surveying the area recently found several Hohokam
Indian artifacts near the northern base of Tempe Butte,
right along the planned realignment of Rio Salado
Parkway. The findings include floors of ancient Hohokam
dwellings called pit houses that may be 850 years old,
as well as hearths, roasting pots and ceramics. Movable
pieces such as pottery will be excavated, studied and
transferred to a museum. But it is impossible to move
the foundations of the pit houses, so archaeologists will
uncover the floors, run tests to determine their exact
age, and document all the findings. The floors then will
be covered back up and construction will begin on the
parkway. "At that point, we've really done all we can do
with the site," said Serelle Laine, projects manager with
Valley-based Archaeological Research Services, which is
handling the $49,000, city-funded dig. "Of course, the
first thing we recommend when we find something is
avoidance of the site, but in a case like this where
that's not an option, all you can really do is study what
you find, document it and rebury it." She said historians
justify reburying the findings, often a necessity with
construction projects, because all of the "data recovery
potential" has been exhausted at that point. Also, there
are several other examples of pit houses in the Valley
and state. Laine said the findings show that some Hohokams
lived on the butte, but it is too early to tell how many.
The pottery indicates that the site probably dates to 1150
to 1300. The floors of the pit houses were burned, which
was common, Laine said. The typical dwelling of the
Hohokams consisted of a shallow square or rectangular pit
that could be as much as four meters in diameter. Upright
poles would support a set of brush walls and a ceiling.
Because open hearths were also a key component in the
houses, fires were common because of the brush walls. The
excavation is part of a larger project that included tests
at Tempe Beach Park that have uncovered a historic canal
dating to 1870. It is believed to be one of the oldest
irrigation canals in the Salt River Valley. After tests, it
too will be reburied. The study also included an old
warehouse at the now-closed Hayden Flour Mill. A historical
architect photographed the building before it was torn
down. Historians now believe there is an even older
foundation underneath the mill that dates to 1893. The last
leg of the project included looking for prehistoric material
along the northern side of Tempe Butte. The parkway
realignment is one of the first steps in the massive Rio
Salado Town Lake, a project that is expected to transform
the dry riverbed just north of Mill Avenue into a lake
surrounded by major tourism, retail and entertainment
destinations. Developers decided to realign the parkway, to
turn the road from a high-speed road around Tempe to a road
that connects downtown and the Rio Salado project.
Construction on the realignment, which has risen from $4
million to $6.7 million, is expected to start in July. When
done, the road will curve south at about Ash Avenue, making
a corner that will run down to First Street. Then it will
make another corner, turning east at Mill Avenue, and then
curve around the Butte before reconnecting with the
existing road. That last stretch is the one that will be
over the pit house foundations. Archaeological Research
Services will finish its dig before construction is allowed
to begin. "I'd love to say this is a really significant
finding, but it's not unique in the Valley," Laine said.
"It's just another piece of the puzzle that will help us
understand the big picture of the Hohokam in the Valley."
However, the archaeologists can't help but be excited at
the find. "We knew there was a possibility of pit houses in
the area, especially with the river nearby, but it's always
exciting when you actually do find them. Sometimes, it's
like looking for a needle in a haystack."