Saturday, August 4, 2012


Several years ago, my Site Steward partner and I decided to do some roaming following checking on a couple of sites within the Cienega Preserve.

We stumbled upon a Historic site!

Surprisingly, the site is quite large so how did the original survey crew miss it? They probably didn’t cross the road as we did. Or maybe it wasn’t in their area to check out!

The site may not have much interest to Tucson Archaeologists as most delve into the prehistoric Hohokam culture.

This site is close to but not abutting two Railroad bridges that cross Cienega Creek.

The Railroad was built in the 1870’s along this wide meandering Creek.

The first Railroad engine crossed the westbound bridge and arrived in Tucson March 20 1880 giving rise to the growth of this Southwestern city.

We are sure this historic site was the major campground for the crews who built the railroad bridges that crisscross the Cienega Creek. The archaeologist, who came at our request, recorded the site and agreed it was a significant campsite for building crews.

On this site we have rusty hole-in-top cans (1820-1917); purple glass (manganese used in glass ended in 1917); white ceramic sherds; sardine cans and lots of flat-sided hinged tobacco cans post 1910! And tobacco cans lidded but not hinged 1849-1910. And more!

There is a nice rock alignment with a stovepipe nestled in the alignment. We are sure the stovepipe indicated that this was the cook’s work area. Also there are piles of rusty lard and food cans nearby that are good indicators of a cook’s domain.

Dating of the site will be tricky but we won’t be doing it. Tricky because there are also two bridges built for car traffic crossing the Creek. They have dates of 1923 stamped into the concrete. So is the campsite from the RR crews of the 1870s or from the road bridge builders in the 1920s? As I mentioned the hole-in-top cans and purple glass is datable BUT those could have been used well after their manufacture. Somehow I doubt it! But then we have many tobacco cans from 1910! It is a “time use” mystery that a historic archaeologist may have fun interpreting. Of course the camp may have had long term use-by both railroad bridge and road bridge crews.

It has been a year since we visited the site.

Today, the stovepipe is missing! It was easy to get out as it was not truly buried and was under a cactus growing over the alignment. Slight marks for digging and pulling it out are evident. Did they take anything else? We don’t have a total artifact inventory.

If and when caught, vandals can receive $250,000 fine and may be subject to 5 years in jail. This is a felony according to the Federal and Arizona Antiquities laws.

The chance of nailing these creeps is zip, zero, nil, nada.

Meanwhile, information is lost to researchers.

What in heavens name will these felonious perps do with a rusty stovepipe?

Sell it?

Guess I’ll keep an eye on eBay for a while!

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