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Help dig up the desert’s indigenous past near Marana

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Posted: Friday, February 24, 2006 6:38 am

Got an aspiring Indiana Jones in the family? Take him or her this weekend to the Yuma Wash Hohokam site to watch the archaeologists work.

“It was absolutely a wonderful experience,” says Dema Gard, a teacher at a Montessori Education Center in Mesa. Gard took a group of children to the site in the fall. “They learned a lot about how to appreciate artifacts and how careful they have to be when digging.”

Located in Marana, the site is being excavated by Old Pueblo Archaeology, a nonprofit group working to protect archaeological sites. It’s one of the oldest ongoing digs in the state, says Allen Dart, director of the group.

There is no cost to watch the archaeologists work. And for $38, you can actually get down in the dirt and search for artifacts beside the experts.

The Hohokam occupied the site between A.D. 700 and 1400, says Dart. Archaeologists have found unusually large houses and seashells from the Gulf of California at the site.

“The times after 1200 A.D. were apparently when some really great environmental stresses started affecting Arizona,” says Dart. “There was a series of extreme droughts starting in 1358. Floods wiped out the Hohokam irrigation systems. That in turn probably affected people’s food supply and in turn may have led to some strife in the culture.”

Archaeologists are selective about where they dig.

“Archaeological sites are not renewable resources,” says Dart. “Once you’ve excavated one it’s a source of destruction.”

Next month is Arizona Archaeology and Heritage Awareness Month. Several state parks will host a variety of events, including living history presentations and workshops on making adobe bricks. For more information, call (602) 417-4174 or visit" class="content-link" target= "332">

Dig for a day What: Watch archaeologists work When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday Where: Yuma Wash Hohokam site, 7548 N. Silverbell Road, Marana Cost: Free Information: (520) 798-1201 or

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