Message #158 From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Date: Sun, 3 May 1998 Subject: No Requirement To Protect Archaeological Sites On Private Land In Arizona [ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] : http://www.azcentral.com/news/0503ruinsart.shtml Reading the Ruins Bulldozers rolling over history Sprawl is threatening archaeological sites across the United States, from Civil War battlefields to Stone Age settlements. But Phoenix is a special case. The whole city is built on the remains of another civilization, the prehistoric Hohokam. http://www.azcentral.com/news/0503ruins.shtml Urban sprawl erasing the past By Kathleen Ingley The Arizona Republic May 3, 1998 This house destroyed rock art that was chipped out a millennium ago. That house took out a prehistoric canal. The development across the way wiped out the remains of an ancient pit-house village. Driving around north Phoenix and the Town of Cave Creek, amateur archaeologist Grace Schoonover gives a most unusual house tour: She points out archaeological sites that were bulldozed by urban growth. "Most of the people building individual Houses don't realize what they're taking out," she says with a heavy sigh. Sprawl is threatening archaeological sites across the United States, from Civil War battlefields to Stone Age settlements. But Phoenix is a special case, said Mark Michel, president of the Archaeological Conservancy, a national organization based in Santa Fe. The whole city is built on the remains of another civilization, the prehistoric Hohokam - it was named for the mythic bird that burns and rises again from the ashes. And rising it is. Maricopa County added more people than any other county in the nation last year. The area has thousands of sites, and many have already been destroyed. "We are working to save the various bits and pieces that are left," Michel said. The average person often assumes that archaeological sites have some sort of legal protection. "But the laws we have are very weak," said Greg Woodall, a Scottsdale archaeologist. There's no requirement to protect archaeological sites on private land in Arizona, with the exception of burial sites and construction projects involving federal money or permits. So a ball court was graded away east of Apache Junction. Petroglyphs were crushed in the Foothills development of Phoenix. Custom homes are Overrunning a site in Mesa, and no one will ever know exactly what's there. "Each piece is really important," said Jerry Howard, curator of archaeology at the Mesa Southwest Museum, "and if you lose a piece, that restricts your ability to understand what's happening through time." Some developers are taking extra steps to study or save petroglyphs, bits of pottery, traces of canals and other clues. A few Valley cities are beefing up their rules. And in the southern part of the state, Pima County requires developers to take archaeological sites into account in their projects, just as they have to consider sewers and streets. But some argue that more protections are needed. Archaeologist Howard worries that "the time to sit back and decide what's important and what should be preserved is almost gone." Today's archaeologists aren't playing Indiana Jones, looking for a few priceless treasures. They're after subtle signs that a casual hiker wouldn't even notice. A long depression, for instance, isn't a natural streambed but a canal. A row of rocks on a hillside can mark a terrace used for farming. Dark rocks and soil were blackened in a fire pit. They all help unravel the tantalizing mystery of the Hohokam. The prehistoric people built a monumental canal system - scientists are still learning just how sophisticated it was - but their culture suddenly collapsed in the 1400s. The Hohokam faced the same challenge as modern Arizonans: Can technology offset the impact of a rapidly rising population, especially in a land of little water? "They successfully lived here for more than 1,000 years, an accomplishment on its own, and then something went wrong," said Todd Bostwick, city archaeologist for Phoenix. "If that's not an important reason to study humans in the past, I don't know what is." A few artifacts in isolation may be fine for a museum case, but they don't tell researchers much. "One or two don't give you the variation that exists in the society," said Glen Rice, an archaeologist at Arizona State University. The patterns of where artifacts are found and in what combination can reveal as much as the objects themselves. They indicate the size of territories, and whether individual settlements began working together in a larger, more complex government. The location and distribution of petroglyphs could help scientists decipher their meaning. Did some pictures indicate water or plentiful game? Did others serve as astrological charts? Archaeological techniques are constantly improving, so artifacts and sites that seem insignificant today may yield a wealth of information in the future, Mesa archaeologist Howard said. For instance, it was only recently that fiber analysis revealed that agave was an important crop for the Hohokam. The root of the plant is caramel-sweet and nutritious when roasted, and researchers figure the Hohokam used it as a fallback when other crops were short. The farming of agave also reveals the close link between the Arizona people and those in Mexico and farther south. The construction equipment has been going full bore in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains east of Apache Junction. Amateur archaeologist Debbie Canright couldn't help wincing as she pointed to an expanse of raw dirt in the middle of a housing project. It used to be a ball court, part of what was known as the Blackwater archaeological site, where the Hohokam played with fist-size balls made of rubber extracted from desert plants. The court is similar to those found in Mexico and Central America, and researchers suspect the games were used for predictions or had ceremonial overtones, such as re-enacting the battle of light and dark. Canright held out a photo of the ball court tenderly, like the portrait of a favorite family member. "It was unusual, stone-lined," she said. "It was oval-shaped. To us, it was actually gorgeous." She's vice chair of the South West Archaeology Team, a volunteer group of professionals and amateurs that is ready to do emergency surveys or excavations when a site is about to be destroyed. The existence of the ball court has been known for a long time, and archaeologists say they thought they had a deal with C. Curtis Construction to save it or at least do extra research. But the bulldozers suddenly moved in last spring. Scott Curtis, an executive with the construction firm, declined to comment, except to say the company "followed all the guidelines from the state and federal law." Canright was glad that the construction crews spared some rocks with petroglyphs - a series of concentric circles - at the corner of the street. But the grading for a cul-de-sac destroyed other artifacts: a large trash mound, the remnants of walls and an oven. "I believe in private property," Canright said. "But the cultural resources found out here, I believe, belong to the people of the state." The Blackwater site should have triggered some extra scrutiny, because the development there needed a permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Whenever a project requires a federal permit, the agency involved must weigh any effects on archaeological sites in the area, said Carol Griffith, deputy state historic preservation officer. Still, "it's real easy for things to slip through the cracks," she said. Often, permits don't kick in until later phases of a project - long after the earthmovers have chewed up a site. Just next door to Blackwater, it was done differently. Developer Judi Roland said she brought in an archaeologist to survey and monitor her 85-home Vista Point project because she believes in preserving the past. "The most exciting thing to me is the petroglyphs," she added. The project was designed to avoid disturbing them. Roland said it's important to start archaeological work early to avoid surprises and delays. She doesn't yet know how much the job will cost, but she expects the petroglyphs and other artifacts may pay off in their own way, as part of a theme for the development. A growing number of communities nationwide are taking formal steps to include archaeology in their land-use plans as urban sprawl threatens historic and prehistoric sites. Pima County, struggling with the growth around Tucson, is often considered a national model. Developers who want zoning changes there must look at archaeology, just as they consider drainage and other technical issues. And they're required to offset any impact the project will have on archaeological sites. Not everyone agrees that more rules are necessary. "Those matters are probably best left in the hands of the private sector to manage," said Drew Brown, president of DMB. "I'm doing a fine job right now." The company is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on archaeology at its huge DC Ranch in the foothills of northern Scottsdale, said Terry Randall, vice president of community developments. He declined to give a specific figure. "It's nothing we have shied away from," he said. "We have typically done as much as would be required or more." That includes giving up construction on valuable property to avoid some of the more significant sites. Overall, Randall said, developers are very responsible about archaeology. ASU Professor Rice acknowledges that science can't stand in the way of progress. "The whole point of archaeology is that civilizations have laid down their own layer over civilizations, and that's what we're in the process of doing," he said. In his vision, the more important archaeological sites would be set aside as parks. Local residents would gain open space and a window into the past. And there would be an extra lure for tourists, who are drawn to the prehistoric sites in the Southwest. "It's feasible," Rice said. Developers and archaeologists don't have to be at odds, he insisted, if there's just a little more thinking ahead. That could mean thinking about archaeology in unexpected places. Until last year, archaeologists assumed there was no need to check out areas of barren creosote flats. Common wisdom was that nothing would be found there. Then they did a routine survey before Mayo Boulevard was built north of the Central Arizona Project, because the roadwork included federal funds. They were stunned to unearth pit houses - mud-walled structures built over shallow pits. "We really need to start paying more attention," said city archaeologist Bostwick. "We have to be careful and examine each project on a case-by-case basis." http://www.azcentral.com/news/0503ruinside.shtml
Proposals and strategies for preserving sites. Here are some of the strategies that archaeologists have used or proposed for preserving sites: Follow the example of Pima County. For zonings and rezonings, developers must prepare a site analysis that includes archaeology along with other points such as drainage and wildlife. They must devise ways to offset any impact the project will have on archaeological sites, whether by recovering and analyzing artifacts or avoiding sites altogether. The requirements, which date from the mid-1980s, apply to residential developments of more than 5 acres and commercial developments larger than 1 acre. In addition, the county won't issue a grading permit, except for very small areas, unless the property is certified to have no archaeological sites or there are plans for dealing with them. Linda Mayro, cultural resources manager for Pima County, looks for creative ways to help developers meet the requirements. Archaeological work can be timed to match the phases of a project, or a development could be reconfigured so the open space coincides with sites. "They're grumpy about it," she concedes. Rely on city rules. Scottsdale's "environmentally sensitive lands ordinance" requires developers in the city's mountainous northern region to do an archaeological survey. They aren't required to preserve or investigate the findings, although the city offers extra open space as an incentive if an archaeological site is left undisturbed. The town of Gilbert is asking developers to be more careful since the fossil of a mammoth was dug up in neighboring Chandler last summer. For larger zoning cases, the town has a standard clause that requires developers to stop and contact local officials if fossils or archaeological artifacts are found in the field. Use jawboning. Although Phoenix has one of the nation's stronger ordinances to help protect historic buildings, the law doesn't extend to archaeology. So for city archaeologist Todd Bostwick, "there's a real salesmanship approach that has to be taken." He assures developers, "If archaeology is undertaken in the beginning, there are very rarely delays.' That's their biggest concern." As for the cost, Bostwick argues that it's a sliver of the overall price tag for a project - almost always less than 1 percent. And he talks up the good publicity if interesting artifacts are found and the possibility of using archaeology as a marketing tool. If a developer won't pay for archaeological work, volunteers can often step in and do some of the basics: a survey, testing of any promising spots, maybe some excavation and monitoring for finds during construction. Pass legislation to require private property owners to do the same archaeological surveying, with possible further investigation or preservation, that's required on state land. A bill with those provisions was introduced this year, but died in committee. Set aside land into special archaeological preserves. Through donations and purchases, the Archaeological Conservancy has saved more than a dozen prehistoric sites around Arizona, plus the ruin of a Spanish mission. One of the more publicized was a Hohokam village in the midst of an upscale subdivision near Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale. Developers Jerry and Florence Nelson sponsored excavations and donated a 2-acre site to the conservancy. Florence Nelson said it was a matter of conscience. If a site is destroyed without research, she said, "It's taking a page out of a book in a library. Somebody sometime will want to read the book and they can't get the whole story." Developers get a tax write-off for the land they donate. The conservancy typically leaves sites undisturbed, the artifacts safely underground. Encourage cities and counties to alert developers right away when their projects may contain archaeological sites. The State Historical Preservation Office is putting together a central database of old maps and records, a kind of one-stop shopping to measure the likelihood of finding artifacts in a particular spot. online visit http://www.azcentral.com for links to archaeology sites in the Southwest, as well as ruins and cultural museums you can visit locally.