Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Protect pieces of past

[Source: Arizona Republic] -- Construction zone. Fresh paint. Wet concrete. A lot of Arizona is brand, spanking new. Including the people - 750,000 of us are newcomers who have moved here since 2000. In this frenzied rush into the future, Arizonans shouldn't forget our rich past and the urgent need to protect it. Places around the state offer fascinating connections to our history. They go back as far as traces of Ice Age human campsites near the San Pedro River in southern Arizona, where remains of a mammoth were excavated. Prehistoric cliff dwellings, mysterious rock art, ancient canals, missions, forts, mining towns, adobe ranch houses . . . They're in the spotlight each March as Arizona celebrates Archaeology and Heritage Awareness Month.

But each March, we have less. Looters, vandals and pothunters are pillaging Arizona's past. And that's not all. On top of that deliberate damage, visitors are unintentionally degrading archaeological sites. Fighting pothunters is tough, especially when big, quick money is at stake. Sites on public land are often remote and hard to patrol. Cases are hard to prove unless the criminals are caught in the act. Fortunately, volunteers in Arizona are providing crucial extra eyes through the Site Steward program. Destroying archaeological sites in the search for artifacts is perfectly legal on private land, as long as burial areas aren't disturbed. That's sad, because researchers have new methods of learning a lot about ancient cultures from the tiniest clues. Arizona should at least follow New Mexico's example and prohibit the use of heavy equipment on archaeological sites because of the possibility of disturbing a graveyard. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]