Northern Arizona is sprinkled with thousands of prehistoric archaeo- logical sites. Not only does the rich prehistoric legacy bring visitors to the area, but businesses involved in construction must be sensitive to surface and buried relics. When land development was in its heyday, archaeology consulting firms were busy with surface surveys and excavating. “For the last couple of years, there have not been so many archaeol- ogy surveys or excavation projects that are related to land development. There’s not much of that work now,” explained Thomas Motsinger, who founded PaleoWest in Prescott in January 2006. The archaeologist classified his work into two types: surface surveys and excavation. Surveys report findings on the surface, while excavating uncovers cultural evidence below the surface. “The survey work that we do as archaeological consultants is not what you typically think of as surveying – the guy on the highway with his tripod,” said Lynn Neal, cultural resource program manager of Enviro- systems Management, Inc. (EMS) in Flagstaff. EMS works with companies like APS and QWEST to meet federal regulations on historic – or prehistoric – preservation. “The bulk of what we do is access the archaeological inven- tory. We examine the landscape and surface to identify archaeological and cultural remains,” said Neal, who received her master’s degree in Anthropology from Northern Arizona University (NAU).
Motsinger described one 4,000-acre survey done for the Coconino National Forest: “Four to five archaeologists are positioned in 15-me- ter [16-yard] intervals to cover the acreage. As they walk, they stop [at evidence of cultural materials], map it, take GPS coordinates, and
write a report of its significance. Our crews are pretty fit.” The survey area was scattered in parcels of 300-350 acres from Bellemont to Kendrick Peak. “We’re doing more surface work now, such as on the Lake Powell Pipeline project. The pipeline will transport water from Lake Powell to St. George, Utah,” said Motsinger, who moved the PaleoWest headquarters to Phoenix in 2008. His firm was hired by the State of Utah to access the impact of the $1.064 billion pipeline on cultural and archaeological sites. “We’re done with the survey phase – we found 150 archeological sites across the site line. The second phase of excavating the sites will probably happen in 2012.”
“Archaeology is the study of past human life based on material remains that people leave
behind,” explained Dennis Gilpin of PaleoWest’s Flagstaff office. “At PaleoWest, we have regional specialists and materials special- ists. I am a Southwest specialist and focus primarily on historical archaeology – the study of the period for which we have written re- cords. I interview living people, which is called ethnography. We certainly have all the quali- fications to survey and excavate anywhere in the Southwest in all time periods. I think there are probably 50-100 or so archaeologists in Flagstaff. That includes NAU, the Park Service, Forest Service, ADOT, Museum of Northern Arizona and a few tribal archaeologists that live in Flagstaff. That is a pretty substantial number for a town the size of Flagstaff when there are only 5-10,000 archaeologists nationwide,” said Gilpin.
“We work quite a bit in the Prescott area,” said Neal. “Just yesterday, we delivered 40 boxes of artifacts for the Talking Rock Ranch development to Sharlot Hall Museum.” Additionally, EMS spent months monitoring and
documenting the site for the development of the 1.3 million gallon Prescott Indian Hill reservoir. “The old reservoir was sitting on an archeological site that was first recorded in 1912. And it is in the midst of the historic district.” EMS worked with historic preservation requirements of the City of Prescott to recommend ways to minimize the visual impact of the new reservoir and retain access to hiking trails. EMS also worked with the Prescott National Forest on the APS Mingus Mountain Substation. “That substation is an interesting place to work. It was built before the National Historic Preservation Act was put in place. They put it right in the middle of the archeological site. But, if you need to upgrade your facility, the new laws kick in,” said Neal. The project helped to preserve information from the past found at the site, while allowing APS to move forward to meet the power needs of the region.
“The Indiana Jones part is a small part of what we do,” Neal laughed.
March is Arizona Archaeology and Heritage Awareness Month, with many events to attract visitors and give locals a chance to meet some of Northern Arizona’s archaeologists. Archeolo- gist Lisa Baldwin will be leading a hike on the Island and Rim Trail at Walnut Canyon National Monument on Thursday, March 3, 10:00a.m.-12:00 p.m. and Thursday, March 24, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
“We live in a very interesting area where a lot of diverse cultures have come together,” said Baldwin. “We have an obligation to the people of the past to understand how they lived. It gives us a better understanding of ourselves when we connect to people across the land- scape and across time.”
“Sixty-one percent of visitors to Flagstaff also visited a historical site,” said Heather Ainardi of the Flagstaff Visitor and Convention Bureau (CVB), who believes archaeology draws visitors to the area. “With the Museum of Northern Arizona, Riordan Mansion and Elden Pueblo, we’re situated very well to bring people in for Arizona Archaeology Month or other cultural
opportunities.” Ainardi added, “As a CVB, we promote Elden Pueblo quite heavily for family and hands-on
activities. It’s a wonderful, hidden gem that many people don’t know about.” FBN