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Preserving archaeology and culture for our future

UPDATE ON 1995-2001 SABINO CANYON RUIN EXCAVATIONS

From 1995-2001 Old Pueblo operated its first public archaeological field school education and research program at the Sabino Canyon Ruin northeast of Tucson, in cooperation with the Fenster School of Southern Arizona, which owns part of that site. Previous digs at the ruin established that it was a large settlement occupied by Hohokam Indians between AD 1100 and 1350 but not much else was known because none of the previous investigations were ever published.

Old Pueblo’s research at the site confirmed that occupation began around AD 1000 and ended some time after 1325. During the Sabino Canyon Ruin program, we not only conducted testing and data recovery excavations in several areas of the ruin owned by the Fenster School, but also completed an archaeological survey of virtually all of the public and private lands that include portions of the Sabino Canyon Ruin, both on and off of the Fenster property, with the full cooperation of the other landowners – see
https://www.oldpueblo.org/bulletins/199612opa07%20Sabino%20Canyon%20Ruin%20%20Archaeological%20Survey.pdf.

Old Pueblo’s excavations at Sabino Canyon Ruin identified Hohokam habitation structures dating to the Rincon through Tanque Verde phases, including pre­historic “pithouses,” apartment-like housing com­pounds with adobe and rock walls built entirely above-ground, and an adobe-and-rock-walled above-ground compound that ap­pears to have been some kind of public use area. Our excavations also revealed dense prehistoric refuse deposits (mostly in trash-filled pit houses), outdoor roasting pits, ancient canals, and two dog burials, and recovered pottery, stone, bone, seashell, and modeled ceramic artifacts.

In 2011, University of Denver Professor Lawrence B. Conyers, author of the ground-penetrating radar (GPR) article in the June 2011 Old Pueblo Archaeology bulletin (see below), arranged for one of his graduate students, Daniel Shereff, to take on the analysis and write-up of Old Pueblo Archaeology Center’s Sabino Canyon Ruin project for Daniel’s Master’s thesis. Daniel spent much of the summer of 2012 in Tucson analyzing the artifacts and data accumulated during our work on this project, and on October 30 he sent us an email with this summary of his results:

Before I left I moved all of the artifacts from the [lab at the University] Indian Ruin site [to] the Arizona State Museum. They were very happy to receive the collection.

As far as my research is concerned everything is going well and there appears to be some interesting preliminary results from my ceramic analysis. It seems that, like the Gibbon Springs and Whiptail sites, there is a higher percentage of corrugated wares at Sabino Canyon than at most other sites in the [Tucson] basin. In addition, there appears to be an interesting spatial component to that data set. There are clear differences in the distribution of certain ceramic types across the site which helps answer some of my general research questions.

I collected a bunch of GPR data at the site and have recently began processing and interpreting the data. So far the data looks great. I am continuing to put all this together while I begin the writing process.

Thanks again for all your help this summer. I’ll keep you posted throughout my research.

Daniel Shereff
Graduate Student
Department of Anthropology
University of Denver
(414) 331-2930
daniel.shereff@gmail.com

Old Pueblo Archaeology Center thanks Daniel for taking on this research project, and hopes to assist him in getting his thesis published.

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