One thing people ask me about occasionally is area archaeology. They wonder about the ancients and the signs (like arrowheads) that they see while hiking. The truth is that I don’t know the area archaeology like I do the other area history. I’m a research geek at heart, I love going through old newspapers and finding old photographs — that’s a little bit of a different animal than archaeology.
Nevertheless, I have a great deal of respect for those whose passion is archaeology and I want to give some guidance to those interested in the prehistoric people, so here we go.
First of all, if you’re into that kind of stuff, there’s a book that you really need to have on your shelf. It’s Charles L. Redman’s “People of the Tonto Rim: Archaeological Discovery in Arizona.” Redman is a longtime Arizona State University professor who is currently the Director of the School of Sustainability.
He worked on a variety of archaeological projects in Rim Country, which led to this terrific book. He discusses extensively the different prehistoric people that were in the area and has a lot of neat stuff in the book. It really is a must have if you’re interested in this area’s archaeology.
There is also a great local outlet for those interested in archaeology and that’s the Rim Country Chapter of the Arizona Archaeological Society. Founded in the late 1980s, it has done a terrific job trying to save a variety of sites in the area. The next meeting is at 10 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 20 at the Church of the Holy Nativity in Payson. The group’s Web site can be found at www.aasrimcountrychapter.com.
One of the archaeological areas that I really enjoy, in part because it deals with more modern items and brings some really great research to light, is the various highway reports. Over the past 30-40 years, every time a stretch of highway has been worked on, there has been archaeological study performed. These reports are then published and usually available at the Payson Public Library. They are a gold mine of information. They provide a great deal of background information and then go through some specific sites — both prehistoric and modern.
For example, the report S.R. 260-Payson to Heber Archaeological Project: Results of Archaeological Testing and a Plan for Data Recovery in the Kohl’s Ranch Segment both prehistoric sites and more modern ones such as the location of the original Camp Geronimo near Kohl’s Ranch. There is a great diagram of the chimney that was left standing underneath the bridges by the Tonto Fish Hatchery Road turnoff, as well as an explanation that the chimney was likely part of “Chief” Miller’s cabin, a Boy Scout executive.
Other reports have similarly good pieces of information. The reports done on Highway 87 south of Payson have some of the best information that I’ve come across regarding old portions of the Bush Highway. Most of these old reports are available at the Payson library, though the Kohl’s Ranch report is an exception.
You can also purchase them through Desert Archaeology, the company who was hired by the state to perform much of this great research.
Arizona State University has played a major role in archaeological research in Rim Country. Often times when we think of their presence here, we think solely of Camp Tontozona and football there, but ASU has played a major role in most, if not all, of the major archaeological research done in the area. Shoofly Ruins is what it is today as the result of an Arizona State University field school program led by Dr. Charles Redman.
There were also field schools held near the Payson Airport and in Star Valley. Even as early as 1950, a three-week ASU field school was held at the CI Ranch site near Christopher Creek.
It is important to note that while much has been discovered through previous archaeological research, plenty more work remains and if you are interested in this type of thing, it is important that you lend your support.
News and Notes
This past Saturday was a big day at Payson Pioneer Cemetery. We recently lost three members of old families and all were buried there on the same day. Audrie Harrison, whose family had garages on Main Street and who have long been an important part of the community, died Oct. 30 in Payson. Jim Sumpter, who purchased the original Pyle home in Bonita Creek in 1957, died on Oct. 21. Last but not least, Dallas Hall died recently as well. He was an old family member with ties to the Wilbanks and Gibson families.
Best wishes to all the families, the contributions of you and your loved ones to this area are noted and appreciated.