|Volunteers at work stabilizing walls at Elden Pueblo, near Flagstaff in Coconino National Forest
|Join Peter Pilles as he excavates in Arizona!
|Photos courtesy Peter Pilles. Click on images for larger versions.
Letters from Arizona
Northern Arizona is famous for its plentiful archaeological sites and natural wonders. Within an hour and a half of Flagstaff there are no less than six National Monuments, including Wupatki, Sunset Crater, Walnut Canyon, Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, and Tuzigoot. Also close by is Coconino National Forest, which is home base to archaeologist Peter Pilles, who knows this region as well as anybody. Join us for the next three months as we look over Peter's shoulder as he excavates at Elden Pueblo and carries out his duties as Forest Archaeologist for the Coconino National Forest. Check in for his weekly updates and be sure to ask him about his work and what it's like to be a Forest Service archaeologist in one of the country's richest archaeological landscapes.
We'll begin our adventure with the excavation season at Elden Pueblo, a 65-room pueblo with trash mounds, smaller pueblos, kiva, a large community room, and numerous pit houses that both pre-date and are contemporaneous with the main pueblo. It is the type site for the Elden Phase of the Northern Sinagua tradition (A.D. 1150-1250), although earlier and later components are also present. Pilles and the Elden Pueblo Archaeological Project aren't the first to dig here, that was the Smithsonian's Jesse Walter Fewkes back in 1926. Fewkes' excavation, and a later field school in the 1960s, have barely scratched the surface of what Elden has to offer.
The current work, which began in the 1980s, is a model of public participation in archaeology--those doing the excavations include volunteers through the Museum of Northern Arizona and the Arizona Archaeological Society, as well as the general public. Also engaged in the program are the Arizona Natural History Association, as well as the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office (Elden is recognized by the Hopi as an ancestral site). The new excavations are being undertaken to confirm data, collect new information, and stabilize the pueblo as a public archaelogy project. Recent work has revealed much about the construction sequence of the site, late Sinagua social organization, subsistence, and the role as a major trade center for the area. Possible evidence for a long-term eruptive sequence for Sunset Crater volcano is being found to examine new geological and archaeological interpretations for the region.
Find out more about visiting Elden Pueblo or see a Timeline of Elden Pueblo archaeology.