A 2,000-Year-Old Hilltop Village next to Downtown Tucson
Most people living in Tucson have no idea of the cultural history embedded at Tumamoc, the large mesa behind Sentinel Peak (aka “A” Mountain). Some 2,000 years ago, the ancient desert farmers of the Early Agricultural period built a huge trincheras settlement on the top of this hill. Traces of their homes and their curious long piles of stone, which archaeologist David Wilcox called “revetments,” are still visible today.
University of Arizona archaeologists Paul and Suzanne Fish have studied this area, and the Arizona State Museum and the University of Arizona School of Anthropology Archaeological Field School have conducted some limited excavations. In addition to dating the trincheras to 300 B.C., archaeologists found evidence that ancient Hohokam lived on Tumamoc Hill around A.D. 800. There is also evidence that Tohono O’odham peoples have used the hill from the 15th century to the modern era. The hill also features rock art that probably served religious functions and marked solar alignments during the summer and winter solstices.
The long tradition of research at Tumamoc started in 1903 with the creation of the Carnegie Desert Botanical Laboratory, and research continues, managed by the University of Arizona. Unfortunately, a number of “pads” were cleared for radio and television antennas, a small observatory, and public safety transmitters.
Today, Tumamoc remains a research center, and an outdoor gymnasium for Tucson’s self-proclaimed “hillwalkers” who climb the steep road to the crest of the hill and enjoy an amazingly well-restored section of Sonoran Desert.
New Work at Tumamoc — A Chance to Work Together to Do the Right Thing
The U.S. government has set up a new independent authority called FirstNet. Its job is to allow first responders all over the U.S. to communicate with each other, as needed, by deploying a new national Wi-Fi network using a reserved public safety broadband range. This program is likely to impact Tumamoc Hill. Note that the impact might actually be positive.
FirstNet had absolutely no knowledge of the existence of the National Historic Landmark and U.S. Archaeological District, nor of its role in Pima County’s current interoperability capacity. FirstNet is asking for a public response, and they are open for comments until 29 December 2014.
Please take a few minutes to ask FirstNet to help protect the ancient trincheras on Tumamoc Hill by restricting construction to the existing antenna pads, so our first responders can communicate while still allowing Pima County and the University of Arizona to protect this important place of the past. The FirstNet group emphasizes that they aren’t asking for an academic document with footnotes and references. They simply want the opinions of as many people as they can get.
Please help. If we can generate a response from enough people, we have assurances that they are likely to become our allies in the preservation of Tumamoc Hill. If Tumamoc is important to you, for whatever reason, you have an opportunity to help FirstNet to become a partner in the preservation of this treasured place of the past—not just for now, but well into the future. Remember, these people want to do the right thing here, and a positive and encouraging letter will help everyone work together to ensure that this construction has a minimal impact on the archaeology and biology of Tumamoc Hill. Please send your comments to: Ms. Amanda Pereira, NEPA Coordinator, Firstnet. PEIScomments@firstnet.gov, or by regular mail at 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, M/S 243, Reston VA 20192.
A special note of thanks to the University of Arizona’s Tumamoc: People and Habitats director Michael Rosenzweig, who is leading efforts to protect and share this unique desert laboratory.