OCTOBER 8, 2014

Verde Valley Archaeology Center to receive land with prehistoric village

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CAMP VERDE – The Verde Valley Archaeology Center (VVAC) has announced the pending acquisition of over 15 acres of the Simonton Ranch in Camp Verde that contains at least eight undisturbed ancient pithouses estimated to date from about A.D. 650.   The majority of this property is being donated by Scott Simonton of Gilbert, Arizona.  Referring to his donation, Mr. Simonton said “It is exciting to see Camp Verde’s history preserved and those who live in the Verde Valley today learn about and appreciate those who once lived there.”  Initial estimates put the value of the property at over $1.25 million.

Mr. Simonton had the parcel investigated by private archaeological contract firms that documented the archaeological features as part of preconstruction plans.  These investigations targeted those features most likely to be impacted by development activities, coupled with those that were the most significant, extensive, and likely to contain burial materials.  During the time period of this area, pithouse villages became common and increased in size.  Agricultural features such as terraces and checkdams also became increasingly prevalent. 
There is evidence for formal community organization and village structure, often smaller sites containing three or more pithouses clustered around a single larger site containing eight or more pithouses.  The arrangement of the pithouses on this property is suggestive of a village.
Archaeologists refer to the people who lived in this area as the Southern Sinagua and those who lived on the east and south sides of the San Francisco Peaks as the Northern Sinagua.  The Southern Sinagua occupied the Sedona/Verde Valley region for centuries and made ceramics somewhat similar to those of the Northern Sinagua.  As a whole, the Sinagua are considered a Puebloan group ancestral to the modern Hopi people of northeastern Arizona.  This property has ancestral connections claimed by the Hopi Tribe, the Yavapai-Apache Nation, the Prescott Yavapai Tribe and the Havasupai Tribe.  The Archaeology Center will consult with all of these tribes as the property is developed.

During the archaeological investigation, all human burials (both cremations and inhumations) were fully excavated in accordance with the provisions and standards of the Arizona Antiquities Act and after consultation with the Native American communities that claim cultural affiliation to this area.  After a short ceremony performed by Yavapai-Apache Nation representatives, reburial took place nearby on property donated for this purpose by Mr. Simonton.  He then transferred ownership of the reburial land to Arizona State Parks for permanent protection.
Many of the discovered features were only sampled for material and information recovery, and were only impacted by the backhoe trenches that led to the discovery of the pithouses.  This testing enabled the determination that pithouse structures were present for consideration during future development of the area.  Most of the artifacts and samples that were collected during trenching are being curated at Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott.  A few diagnostic artifacts were retained by Mr. Simonton and are on display at the VVAC in Camp Verde. All of the project paperwork and documentation (field forms, maps, artifact analyses sheets, photographic documentation, etc.) is curated as part of the collection at Sharlot Hall.  It is the intention of the VVAC to request the transfer of this data and material to the Center upon completion of the new repository so that it is near its original “home.”

This property will provide the Center with the opportunity to build a state-of-the-art museum, repository, auditorium and classrooms.  The undisturbed archaeological structures on the property will allow the Center to conduct excavation field schools with universities and eventually develop an archaeological park with interpretive signage.  The drawing presents the initial conceptual structures as developed with the Design Group Architects of Sedona for the 15-acre parcel.  The stars designate the archaeological features with the interpretive trail that will become an archaeological park.

To move this project forward, the Center has assembled a Design/Build Team to develop the final architectural plan and cost estimates.  This Team includes representatives of Design Group Architects, Kinney Construction, Yavapai College, Arizona State Museum, the Town of Camp Verde, and VVAC professional staff.  Upon completion of the final design, with drawings and a model, the VVAC will launch a Capital Campaign that will include naming rights to selected buildings and features.

Additional details of this project will be announced at the Center’s Gala Benefit at the Sedona Poco Diablo Resort on October 18.  Information on the property, building plans or Gala can be obtained by calling the Center at 928-567-0066, or on their website at www.verdevalleyarchaeology.org.