MAY 4, 2011

Archaeologists to discuss Cave Creek ceramic research project

aas logoCAVE CREEK – Please join the members of the Desert Foothills Chapter (DFC) of the Arizona Archaeological Society (AAS) on Wednesday, May 11, at 7 p.m. for a dessert potluck and a stimulating discussion by not one, but two, local archaeologists.

Dr. David Abbott, an associate professor of archaeology at ASU and J. Scott Wood, a Tonto National Forest archaeologist and Heritage Manager, will discuss a long term research project to evaluate the possibility of a development of alliances between the prehistoric peoples of the Verde Valley, Perry Mesa and the Cave Creek area.  The talk is titled, Desert Foothills Ceramics:  Probing the Verde Confederacy on Perry Mesa. The meeting takes place in the Community Building of the Good Shepherd of the Hills Church, 6502 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek.  There is no charge for this event and the public is welcome to attend. 

The Verde Confederacy is the name given to this alliance model, and it is believed to have formed in the early 14th century as a protective response to the larger and more highly organized Hohokam population in the Phoenix Basin.  Using ceramic analysis, architectural evidence and paleoclimatic data, these archaeologists seek to document the scale of such cooperation between these relatively distant groups.   The development of such an alliance would seem to be compelling evidence for wide scale hostilities and warfare during the late prehistoric era.

As part of this research project, the DFC Chapter has been directly involved in the collection of ceramics on Perry Mesa and at Seven Springs.  Under the supervision of J. Scott Wood, members have collected sherds at three different sites near Brooklyn Basin on Perry Mesa and at two different sites near Seven Springs.  These sherds will be sorted and then analyzed by electron microprobe using a special procedure developed by Dr. Abbott.  The analysis will focus on examining the temper—the filler added to the clay to improve its texture or workability.  Some tempers, such as the mineral phyllite, which is abundant in the Wingfield Plain pottery found on Perry Mesa and in Cave Creek, are easier to chemically identify and can be traced to a specific area.  Microscopic analysis of phyllite temper will show whether or not the ceramics were traded to another village or made and used in the location that the phyllite was gathered.   It will also show whether the kind of tempers used remained consistent throughout the areas studied or whether there were changes in temper that might indicate different sources or techniques.   In addition to providing manpower for gathering and sorting, the DFC is also assisting with some of the funding for this analysis. 

Dr. Abbot and J. Scott Wood plan to discuss the formation and development of this Verde Confederacy Model in more detail.  In addition, they will talk about the previous field work done on Perry Mesa by ASU and will address some of the other issues of the research project such as climate and architecture of the different groups.  Although the ceramic analysis will not be completed at the time of this meeting, they hope to have some exciting preliminary data that they can share with our chapter—information that might prove a possible connection between the prehistoric inhabitants of Cave Creek and Perry Mesa. 

The DFC does not meet during the summer months of June, July and August.  Meetings are held on the second Wednesday of the month, at 7 p.m., beginning again on September 9.  The guest speaker for September will be historian Tom Kennedy, who will present a PowerPoint lecture entitled, The History of the Zuni Culture.  

The AAS is an independent, non-profit and state-wide organization that serves as a link between the professional archaeologist and the amateur enthusiast.  AAS members love our state and enjoy hikes, lectures, field schools, certification training and archaeological research projects such as the one described, while also supporting its goals to foster public awareness, interest, research and the conservation of Arizona’s rich archaeological heritage.  Check out the AAS website, for membership information and to find a chapter near you.  For direct information about the DFC and its many activities, please contact President Paddi Mozilo at 480-595-9255.