Los Morteros is the site of a large Native American village inhabited between about A.D. 850 and 1300. The site stretches north and south along the Santa Cruz River and extends west of the river past the current right-of-way of Silverbell Road. For centuries, Los Morteros was a large village and the center of an extended “community” of related sites along the river. Archaeologists named the site “Los Morteros” for the many bedrock mortars found within the site. The site’s inhabitants used these features to grind and mill seeds, corn, and other plants.
The Los Morteros location was the scene of important events in the history of southern Arizona. The famous 1775–1776 expedition of Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza made a major encampment here in the area just north of Coachline Boulevard. In the 19th century, the historic “Pointer Mountains” Butterfield Stage Station was established near present day Oasis Street and Coachline Boulevard.
Los Morteros is an important cultural resource because its undisturbed, buried remains contain a huge reservoir of information about the history of the Tucson Basin. Equally important, the Tohono O’odham Nation considers Los Morteros an ancestral site. Los Morteros is one of the “Last of the Best” of Pima County’s cultural resources. The core area of the ancient village, the Anza campsite, and the historic stagecoach station (approx. 120 total acres) were acquired by Pima County with 1997 bond funds, with additional funds approved in the 2004 bond election to preserve and manage the resources. The archaeological and historic resources are protected as a Pima County Conservation Area to save them from encroaching development and to preserve them for the future of Pima County.