Join Ranger Chad at Homolovi State Park for a tour of Homolovi IV, one of the park’s archaeological sites not usually open to the public. The pueblo consisted of approximately 150 masonry rooms built in a step-wise fashion down the sides of a small butte on the west side of the Little Colorado River. It was occupied for a short time in the late 1200s, but the site also includes petroglyphs from a much earlier time. The Homolovi Research Program excavated this site for the first time in 1989.
Homolovi IV tours will take place this fall on the following dates: September 24, October 1, October 2 (in conjunction with Flagstaff Festival of Science), October 8, October 15, October 22 and October 29, weather permitting. The tours will begin at the Homolovi State Park Visitor Center at 10:00AM and be finished by 12:30PM and are limited to 15 participants. Please call the park to reserve your spot on the tour of your choice (928) 289-4106.
Normal fees apply for special events/day use: $7 per vehicle with up to 4 adults, and $3 for each additional adult. Camping fees are $18 if you do not use the electricity and $25 if you need the electricity. For more information call Homolovi at (928) 289-4106, located five miles northeast of Winslow, Arizona off of I-40 (exit 257 on State Road 87). The park campground is convenient to I-40 and accommodates large rigs, as well as tent camping. For more information about the 30 State Parks, statewide hiking opportunities, off-highway vehicle trails, and other outdoor recreational and cultural opportunities in Arizona, call (602) 542-4174 (outside of the Phoenix metro area call toll-free (800) 285-3703) or visit AZStateParks.com. Visit AZStateParks on Facebook and Twitter or you can load the “Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder” mobile app for your smartphone. The link is: http://www.ohranger.com/app/parkfinder.
Somewhere out there, there’s a modern Western explorer who decided he had something so important to say that it had to be slathered in silver paint on a remote rock wall full of ancient petroglyphs in the national forest.
The mysterious etchings depicting people, animals and a blazing sun are in a box canyon known as Keyhole Sink in the Kaibab National Forest east of Williams, a mountain town off Interstate 40 that has welcomed sojourners since its namesake, fur trapper “Old Bill” Williams, explored the locale in the early to mid-1800s.
The pristine rock art in Keyhole Sink was a silent reminder of the ancient culture that long flourished in northern Arizona, and it stood unaltered for at least 1,000 years. That all changed in August, when someone painted “ACE” on top of the petroglyphs in sloppy, dripping letters. Under the defacement is an indistinguishable glop of paint that could be more lettering.
Kaibab officials aren’t sure exactly what it says, nor what it means, other than a potentially expensive restoration job that might not work. Investigators are trying to find the culprits but have no suspects.
“It’s beyond words,” Kaibab archaeologist Neil Weintraub said of the damage. “It feels like an attack on this site. What has it done except give people pleasure for years?”
The damage at Keyhole Sink is a fresh reminder of the ongoing assault on ancient archaeological sites in Arizona and across the Southwest – graffiti, looting of artifacts, littering and garbage-dumping. Sites are defaced with paint, bullet marks, paintball stains and messages scratched into rocks. Professional thieves remove pottery, hack out chunks of ancient art-covered rock and dislodge anything they can carry away.
The sites are vulnerable because they’re not behind locked doors. They are operated on the assumption that visitors will behave, since monitoring is intermittent at many of these locations. There aren’t enough people, either paid or volunteer, to check them frequently. There are simply too many sites. Often, they’re hard to reach.
“We can’t monitor them all, and neither can the land managers,” said Nicole Armstrong-Best, interim coordinator for Arizona’s Site Stewards program. The program oversees a group of volunteers who monitor local, state and federal sites all over the state.
There are about 800 volunteer stewards who monitor the 3,000 most significant or most affected sites the program tracks. Armstrong-Best said there are thousands of other sites – both known and undiscovered – not being watched.
More than 130 vandalism reports have been filed by the stewards since October 2009, when a computerized reporting system was put in place. Reported incidents include petroglyph thefts, paint damage, graffiti and dumping of debris. In a few cases, even shrines and cairns have been built on the sites, along with other alterations.
Looters and vandals can be prosecuted under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979. But experts say the cases can be difficult to prosecute unless there are witnesses. Still, there have been enforcement actions in Arizona and neighboring states recently.
Perhaps the best known is a federal sting that targeted looters in the Four Corners area of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. More than 25 people were arrested in the case.
In other examples of prosecution, a Bullhead City man was hit with several citations after a paintball fight damaged petroglyphs in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and the federal Bureau of Land Management is investigating a case near Tucson in which people were spotted spray-painting a series of rock-art panels.
Archaeology buffs like Robert Schroeder of Phoenix wonder if it’s a good idea to have the sites listed so publicly.
“I don’t see any easy solution,” said Schroeder, who photographs petroglyphs, including some that have been damaged. “You want Americans to have access to the country’s cultural resources, but you want to keep sensitive sites off the radar, so to speak.”
Mike Johnson, deputy preservation officer for the BLM’s Arizona office in Phoenix, said urban growth in the West means more people looking to crowd into diminishing open space, putting more pressure on archaeological sites. At the same time, he said technology like GPS helps people find sites, and Internet marketplaces permit thieves to easily market what they’ve stolen.
Johnson said the BLM is working to increase steward visits and patrols by uniformed officers at sensitive sites, and to increased cooperation with Native American tribes, for whom these sites are sacred reminders of their ancestors.
Experts say that the impulse to restrict access is giving way to the idea that educating visitors about the value of the sites will make them more apt to notice and report criminal shenanigans.
“You give people who are professional looters more reason for concern, more eyes and ears out there,” said Andy Laurenzi of Tucson’s Center for Desert Archaeology.
Kaibab officials were proactive in trying to protect Keyhole Sink. Two forest roads leading to the small canyon were closed, and now the rights of way are carpeted with forest growth. Without easy access, garbage and litter almost disappeared.
To keep the site accessible, forest managers created a ¾-mile walking trail to Keyhole Sink. They figured that anyone willing to make the effort to get there on foot would value what they were seeing.
Kaibab officials erected signs warning against vandalism and explaining the significance of the site. Now, Weintraub said, the agency may have to consider installing cameras and motion detectors to protect the site, though that runs counter to his notion that the place is a touchstone to the past.
Until the paint is removed, he said, people who come there from around the world will be disappointed.
“We’ve lost the value of people being able to come there, see the stuff, sometimes sit there alone and imagine how it was for the ancient people who lived there,” he said.
Margaret Hangan, Kaibab National Forest’s heritage-program manager, said she was unsure if anyone would be caught for the vandalism. Kaibab officials are still trying to figure out the best way to remove the paint without leaving more damage. Officials hope publicity helps educate people and generates some tips on who did it.
“It hurts us emotionally, because this is just such a special place,” Hangan said recently, standing near a pool at the base of a cliff where a waterfall cascades during the snowmelt season. “It’s really hard to see that not everybody feels the same way we do about it.”
[Source: Kevin Christopher, Arizona Museum of Natural History] — A community vision to bring an archaeological treasure to the public is finally realized! A grand opening of the Mesa Grande Interpretive Trail [was] held Saturday, March 27 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Mesa Grande, located at West 10th Street and Date/Brown. Mesa Grande is a major prehistoric Hohokam site that flourished from about 1000-1450 A.D. The main feature is a large platform mound, about 27 feet high, that covers the size of a football field. The site is administered by the Arizona Museum of Natural History.
“This is a day we have been looking forward to for a long time. The opening of the trail will allow people to learn more about this unique site built by the Hohokam and our efforts to save it,” Arizona Museum of Natural History Curator of Anthropology Dr. Jerry Howard said. The City of Mesa purchased the Mesa Grande ruins to preserve this cultural treasure and open it to the public as an educational and recreational facility. Mesa Grande is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has also been designated by the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission as an Arizona Centennial Legacy Project. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
Arizona’s State Parks — natural areas, historic places, archaeological sites, cultural resources, and much more — are in trouble. Parks funding from the Arizona State Legislature has decreased significantly over the last eight years, and a number of parks are closing. To protect our parks for future generations, legislators should do two things:
FIRST, they should restore the enhancement fund (parks fee dollars we all pay) and the Heritage Fund so State Parks can continue to operate in the short term.
SECOND, they should support HCR2040, which refers to the ballot a measure to allow free day use of our parks for a fee on vehicle registrations. The vote is scheduled for 2 p.m., Thursday, February 25!
While you’re certainly welcome to show up in person, YOU CAN CLICK HERE NOW to send a message to your legislators asking them to vote YES on HCR2040.
If passed by the Legislature, this measure will be referred to the ballot. If Arizona’s voters approve, the fees will be voter protected, meaning that the Legislature could not divert them for other purposes. This is a crucial step toward saving our state park system!
Thank you for your support of our state parks and Arizona’s heritage!