Thursday, June 22, 2006

Vanishing past: Important archaeological sites face growing threats

[Source: Tim Vanderpool, Tucson Weekly] -- Narrow your eyes here, and it's easy to imagine ancient Hohokam villages fanning across the flats, smoke from their low fires curling into desert. Tagged Los Morteros by archaeologists, for bedrock mortars found atop boulders, this Tucson Mountain site bustled with civilization long before civilization gave it a name. But open your eyes a bit wider, and now what you see is the subdivided sprawl of Continental Ranch. Today, entombed under Continental's tidy concrete--beneath the cul-de-sacs and curbing and meaty foundations--are the ghosts of this finally vanished world.

Meanwhile, in areas less touched by development than Los Morteros, looters, vandals and off-roaders are taking up the slack. Last year alone, monitors with a state-run volunteer program reported 212 vandalism incidents, 27 lootings, 21 trashed signs, two unearthed human remains, 13 cases of spray-painting and two petroglyph thefts. Amongst deliberate destruction, blind ignorance and so-called progress, Arizona is quickly losing its prehistoric heritage. And that dismays Mary Estes, who runs the volunteer Arizona Site Steward Program for the State Parks Department.

"You'd think people would have a little more respect for Arizona's past," she says. "But unfortunately, much of this damage is done by people who haven't been educated to the fact that it's our collective past--a past we should appreciate and enjoy." [Note: To read the full article, click here.]