Archaeologist, former tribal cultural director explain significance of archaeological site

November 11, 2018 GMT

An archaeologist from Phoenix, working independently from the state government, says evidence shows a significant archaeological site was damaged at Lake Havasu State Park.

The Arizona Archaeological Council and Society for American Archaeology asked Daniel Garcia, an archaeologist from Phoenix, to find facts about allegations against Sue Black.

Black was placed on administrative leave earlier this month after reports that she ignored Parks and Trails compliance officer and tribal liaison, Will Russell’s warnings that the agency was building on Native American archaeological sites at Lake Havasu State Park. The attorney general’s office is investigating the agency.

Garcia said the area in question at Lake Havasu State Park meets the requirements to be considered an archaeological site because it’s more than 50 years old and contains evidence of past human activity.

“As archaeologists working for the state or the federal government, we assess significance by considering its eligibility for listing in the state or the national registers of historic places,” he said

In order to be included in the national register, a place has to be associated with an important event, important person, distinct architectural artistic style or it has to contain information that’s important to people’s understanding of the past.

In 2006, the potential archaeological significance of areas of Lake Havasu State Park made the park eligible for placement on national and state historic registries.

Garcia said the archaeological site was a pre-contact, meaning there was human activity before Europeans settled in Arizona. It was a stone tool quarry, or a place where people went to get the types of raw materials for making everyday stone tools necessary to live in the region, he said.

There is also a suggestion that there may have been ancient houses or habitations, at least one but maybe more, Garcia said.

“That also contains information about how people lived, how they may have eaten, what their lifestyles were like,” he said. “Together those things suggest that it is a significant archeological site that was damaged.”

Jay Cravath, former cultural director for Chemehuevi Tribe, said there are many historic sites and artifacts along the Colorado River, including petroglyphs, stone tools, pictographs and lithic scatter. The Chemehuevi were hunter-gatherers who traveled along the area before reservations forced them to stay in one place, Crabath said.

“Those area are sacred,” Cravath said. “A lot of the petroglyphs refer to religious or ceremonial events and, you have to realize that for indigenous people, they did not separate the secular from the sacred. Everything was sacred.”