March is Archaeology and Heritage Awareness Month for the State of Arizona. Setting aside a month to celebrate archaeology highlights the importance of our shared past, as well as the social and economic impacts of archaeology in the state. Of course, there are tours, events, and lectures on archaeology throughout the year, but every March brings extra opportunities. Each year, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Arizona State Parks, and the Governor’s Archaeology Advisory Commission put out a listing of events (opens as a PDF) for the month of March. The list is organized by region to help you find interesting archaeological activities near you.
March also brings the annual Archaeology Expo (opens as a PDF), which offers special tours and educational opportunities for archaeology buffs young and old. We’re so pleased that this year’s Expo will be held right in our own backyard, at Catalina State Park, on Saturday, March 29th. Located in Oro Valley, just north of Tucson, Catalina State Park is an ideal place to see beautiful scenery, desert wildlife (including the recently reintroduced—and lately beleaguered—desert bighorn sheep, if you’re lucky), and amazing archaeology. There will be plenty of activities, including rabbit-stick throwing, atlatl throwing, corn grinding, flint knapping, and pottery making—to name just a few. There will be booths providing information and materials focused on archaeological research in the state, including information on volunteer and career opportunities.
In addition, there will be tours and special lectures, including Archaeology Southwest board member Janine Hernbrode’s presentation on the Sutherland Wash Rock Art District and former Archaeology Southwest research associate Matt Pailes’s discussion of the Cerro Prieto site. Along with Catalina State Park staff, Archaeology Southwest staff members will offer several tours of Romero Ruin within the park. Ancient technology expert Allen Denoyer will give tours of the replica Hohokam pithouse at nearby Steam Pump Ranch, and archaeologist Henry Wallace of Desert Archaeology, Inc., will guide two tours of Honey Bee Village, a significant Hohokam settlement in Oro Valley.
Here is additional information on some of what you’ll be able to see and learn with Archaeology Southwest and friends:
Hohokam people lived in the village now known as Romero Ruin from about A.D. 500 to 1450. At its peak, around A.D. 900, the settlement was home to about 200 people. Much of what we know about this unique place comes from investigations conducted by Archaeology Southwest (under previous names) in the late 1980s and early 1990s in advance of interpretive trail construction. Preserved and protected within Catalina State Park, the site should be open to interested visitors for generations to come.
Romero Ruin is an excellent example of a Hohokam village because it preserves many typical features of settlement. During guided tours, visitors see the remains of 1,000-year-old houses, stone walls, and trash mounds. There are also two ballcourts at the settlement, where people played a ball game similar to one known from ancient Mexico and Central America.
The site also includes prominent historic structures built around 1875 by rancher and former Tucson Presidio soldier Francisco Romero and his family. Romero used stones that once formed the walls of the ancient Hohokam village, illustrating the layers of history at the site.
Honey Bee Village
The Expo will also provide a rare opportunity to tour Honey Bee Village with Henry Wallace, who led Desert Archaeology, Inc.’s investigations at the site. Honey Bee Village is a large Hohokam settlement that people inhabited between A.D. 450 and 1250, generally contemporaneous with Romero Ruin.
Today, residential development surrounds the site. Through cooperation among Pima County, the Town of Oro Valley, and the Tohono O’odham Nation, the 13-acre core of the site—which includes a large ballcourt, a plaza, trash mounds, and a dense area of occupation—has been preserved for future generations. Arizona state law protects the preserve, and volunteers of the Arizona Site Steward program monitor its condition regularly.
Although access to the site is controlled, on this special occasion, Henry will be providing two tours of the village, at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Each tour is limited to approximately 25 people, so if you want to see this interesting site, you should sign up early in the day.
Pilot Pithouse at Steam Pump Ranch
Last but not least, the Expo will enable visitors to become acquainted with Archaeology Southwest’s new Hands-on Archaeology program and see the replica pithouse featured in a recent blog post. This structure represents a type of pithouse found at Honey Bee Village. Archaeologist Allen Denoyer will be out at the Steam Pump during the Expo to provide tours of the pithouse and to share his extensive knowledge of Hohokam technology.
We hope to see you on March 29 for the Expo!