Following on recent field research, specialists from the Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe will begin analysis and compilation project with Archaeology Southwest
Tucson, Ariz. (June 23, 2020)—Archaeology Southwest is pleased to announce that it has received a generous $114,219 grant award from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) CARES: Cultural Organizations program. The highly competitive program disburses supplemental grant funding received by NEH through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The funding (award no. RJ-274018) will enable Archaeology Southwest to implement a new endeavor, “Indigenous Petroglyphs as Social Networks,” and to re-employ four members of the Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe as Data Specialists on the project from late June through the end of December 2020.
Led by Preservation Archaeologist Aaron Wright, the project team of Jason Andrews, Charles Arrow, Keahna Owl, and Zion White will undertake classification and analysis of petroglyphs—designs impressed into stone surfaces—from southern Arizona, including data Wright and the team gathered during a recent five-month field reconnaissance effort as part of the Lower Gila River Ethnographic and Archaeological Project, a multiyear initiative also funded by NEH (RZ-255760). The information will be added to cyberSW, a massive online repository of archaeological data from the American Southwest and northwest Mexico that facilitates “big-data” investigations of big-picture questions about people’s lives, communities, cultures, and interactions in the past.
“This grant is an excellent opportunity for the Southwestern Tribes to connect our shared histories through the petroglyphs left behind by our ancestors,” said Owl, who has associate’s degrees in anthropology and business management and had been planning to attend a joint University of Arizona-Archaeology Southwest archaeological field school this summer prior to its cancelation.
Andrews, who is also pursuing a career in archaeology and would have attended the same field program, agreed that the grant contributes to “a great toolbox for the outside world to better understand our ancestral cultures and traditions.”
The petroglyph data the team adds to cyberSW will complement information about ancient residential sites, public architecture, pottery, and obsidian (a volcanic glass used to make sharp tools). The information will be particularly important for exploring questions about social identity, ideology, and land use. “Many tribal communities regard petroglyphs as vital dimensions of the archaeological landscape,” said Wright. “Some Indigenous cultural advisors see specific motifs as symbols of clan and tribal identity, as renditions of traditional narratives, and even as direct messages from ancestors.”
Wright added that he was grateful that the grant provided “an opportunity to meaningfully and materially” support Quechan team members at this time when Tribes are particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus, by rehiring them for the new project and keeping them involved in petroglyph research.
On hearing that the project had been funded, White shared this sense of gratitude: “Being a Kwatsan Native, I’m honored and privileged to be able to study my Indigenous culture.”
The National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the Indigenous Petroglyphs as Social Networks project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
About Archaeology Southwest
Archaeology Southwest is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, that explores and protects the places of our past across the American Southwest and Mexican Northwest. For three decades, Archaeology Southwest has fostered meaningful connections to the past and respectfully safeguarded its irreplaceable resources. Learn more at archaeologysouthwest.org.
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