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March is for Arizona archaeology and heritage

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March 1 signaled the beginning of Arizona Archaeology and Heritage Awareness Month (AAHAM). Organized events ranging from archaeological demonstrations to backcountry tours of heritage sites are available for public participation during all of March throughout Arizona. Some activities require an RSPV and will have limited availability.

Kris Powell, compliance specialist for Arizona’s State Historic Preservation Office, said there are about 80 different activities taking place throughout the state this month. 

“Arizona is really unique,” Powell said. “We have such a large and rich heritage, both archaeologically and historically.” 

Natural erosion, looters and developers all pose risks to archeological sites. Powell said archaeological and historical resources are very fragile and non-renewable. 

“It’s really important to get the word out and educate people so that they can become better stewards of these resources, so that our children’s children can still [appreciate] them.”

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The 2017 Archaeology Expo, and opening event for AAHAM, was held Saturday, March 4, at the Himdag Ki Tohono O’odham Museum and Cultural Center on the Tohono O’odham reservation. The expo brought together students, teachers, volunteers, interested citizens and archaeology enthusiasts together to learn, share and experience archaeology and history of the state. Presentations, exhibits, demonstrations and activities were available with free admission. 

Two Native American tribal groups, the Tohono O’odham and Hualapai, each gave agave roasting demonstrations during the expo. Each tribe’s agave roasting process varies from the other’s, both in agave type and roasting technique. This unique instance of cultural sharing between two vastly different northern and southern tribal groups was the first of its kind at AAHAM.

“We have been doing this for over 30 years, but this is the first year that we’ve actually teamed up with a tribe to have the expo on their land at their facility,” Powell said. “The neatest thing about Arizona archaeology is the convergence of different cultures.”

Due to the diversity in, and preservation of, archaeological history in Arizona, AAHAM provides for abundant educational and engaging activities throughout various monuments, museums and parks in the state. Powell said that the month is also about celebrating the many Native American groups from Arizona: 

“We have these wonderfully rich, diverse cultures that kind of mix, through Arizona, through time.”

Reuben Naranjo is a Tohono O’odham tribal member who demonstrated traditional pottery making at Saturday’s expo. Naranjo said his group’s pottery is all traditionally gathered, processed and fired.

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“We’re trying to keep a tradition alive that has been kind of on the downslope,” Naranjo said.

Melvina Garcia, a Tohono O’odham tribal member, said she thinks it’s important for people to come into the reservation and learn what the area is about. Garcia said, at the expo, she’s met both first timers to the reservation and others who have returned. 

“I think it’s all for educational purposes to know what is out here and how our lives are,” she said, “We are here, you know, we’re here.”

A statewide listing of events is available on flyers that have been circulating around national parks, libraries, visitor centers and other locations in Arizona. The many events going on this month are listed by area, location and date in the flyer. Additional events not mentioned on the printed listing, as well as updates and schedules, can be found online at azstateparks.com/archy.

Archaeology and heritage awareness events are abundant during March in Arizona thanks to the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office/Arizona State Parks & Trails, the Arizona Archaeological Society and various state parks, organizations and museums. For more information, collect an AAHAM flyer, check out the website or contact Kris Powell at 602-542-7141 or kpowell@azstateparks.gov. 


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