Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pecos, 55th Ave. routes in Phoenix would require prehistoric digs

[Source: Kerry Fehr-Snyder, Arizona Republic] -- Ancient Native American artifacts likely are buried under the path of the proposed South Mountain Freeway, Phoenix's lead archaeologist and freeway planners agree. But unlike the now-U.S. 60 built in the early 1970s, construction crews won't be allowed to encase the ruins in asphalt. "That's an old saw," said Todd Bostwick, who has studied the Hohokam people for more than 25 years. "They (crews) have to dig them now." Bostwick said he is virtually sure of Hohokam villages along the proposed 22-mile path for the South Mountain Freeway, which would run west along Pecos Road through part of the South Mountain Preserve and north to 55th Avenue.

Rock art known as petroglyphs are widespread throughout the South Mountain area (pictured), leaving Bostwick little doubt that pre-historic Hohokam people settled in the area as early as 300 years before the birth of Christ. In 1973, crews building the Superstition Freeway (now U.S. 60) unearthed Hohokam pottery shards, remnants of an extensive irrigation system and other relics east of Rural Road along the highway's path. The discovery prompted the federal government to halt construction of a two-mile segment from Rural to Price Road to allow archeologists time to excavate and document the discovery. Ultimately, the federal government allowed the freeway to be built -- but at ground level along that portion rather than below, as originally planned. Freeway planners at the time argued it was better to pave over the Hohokam village rather than find a new alignment for the freeway or stop its construction. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]