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Ancient Artifacts Found at Phoenix Construction Site

Fri July 13, 2012 - West Edition
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Preservation experts believe pottery fragments found by workers in May date as far back as 1,600 years ago.
Preservation experts believe pottery fragments found by workers in May date as far back as 1,600 years ago.

PHOENIX (AP) Archaeologists said they have found ancient artifacts at the Phoenix construction site of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s future headquarters.

The Arizona Republic reported preservation experts believe pottery fragments found by workers in May date as far back as 1,600 years ago. Archaeologist Mark Hackbarth — whose firm, Logan Simpson Design, is contracted with the county to examine any findings — said the grindstones predate even the Hohokam Indians, a tribe that once lived where downtown Phoenix is today.

The fragments were likely from an era known as the Red Mountain Phase, Hackbarth said. “That’s because there’s no way to archaeologically say that’s a tribe at that time,” he told KPNX-TV.

The fragments will eventually go to the Pueblo Grand Museum for research and future exhibits. Laurene Montero, a city of Phoenix archaeologist at the museum, called the possible Red Mountain period artifacts an exciting discovery.

“It’s an early phase we don’t see too much of. There are only a handful of sites we’ve identified that date from roughly 1 to 300 A.D.,” Montero said. “When they find it, it’s pretty interesting.”

Maricopa County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick said that allowing archaeologists to gather findings at the site at Sixth Avenue and Madison Street shouldn’t affect the construction deadline for the $93 million facility. A final report on the findings will come out in six months. David R. Abbott, associate professor of anthropology at Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change, said he is looking forward to reading the report. Abbott believes the artifacts could help archaeologists learn more about the Hohokam tribe’s way of life.

The artifacts’ discovery means the county must pay $200,000 to Logan Simpson Design, Gerchick said. The firm was already retained for a $2,000 fee to stay on call if anything was found.

In May, workers at the site dug up remnants of graves that local experts said had ties to Arizona pioneers who died in the mid- to late-1800s. Their findings included coffin handles, wood slivers and even some human remains.