After graduating from high school in Phoenix, Arizona, Peter Pilles studied anthropology and archaeology at Arizona State University in Tempe. As with many young archaeologists, he spent several years doing short-term projects--for the Pueblo Grande Museum, Arizona State University, and the Arizona State Museum--before joining the staff of the Museum of Northern Arizona in 1967. In 1975, he became the first full-time forest archaeologist in the southwest region when he accepted a position with the Coconino National Forest. However, he maintained close ties with the museum and currently serves on its board of trustees.
Pilles' has worked primarily in northern, central, and southern Arizona. His recent excavations in the Coconino National Forest include Sinagua and Yavapai sites in the Verde Valley (though he also recently was part of a team excavating a shell mound in Brazil). His focus is on rock art, ceramics, cultural resource management (once known as rescue or salvage archaeology), and public involvement in archaeology.
Along with Elden Pueblo, his recent projects include Honanki Cliff Dwellings (built between A.D. 1150 and 1300, and a spectacular example of Sinagua architecture and rock art) and Big Dry Wash, site of the last official battle between the Apaches and the U.S. Army in July 1882.
Beyond excavating or surveying, which is what most people equate with archaeology, Pilles has spent considerable time recording rock-art sites and removing modern graffiti from them. He's also supervised the stabilization of standing ruins at a number of sites. As a teacher, Pilles has instructed members of law-enforcement agencies about archaeology and the legal framework that protects our sites (see Cultural Resource Magazine, vol. 17, no. 6, and vol. 19, no. 7, at crm.cr.nps.gov for more on federal archaeology laws). Also in the teaching field, Pilles has given numerous courses on the conservation and management of rock-art sites.
Over his career, Pilles has been recognized, for numerous efforts, by the Hopi Tribe (for contribution to the enhancement of Hopi culture), the Northern Arizona Archaeological Society (for 20 years at Elden Pueblo), the American Rock Art Research Association (for management and protection of sites in Coconino), and from Coconino National Forest (for, among other things, assistance in investigating vandalism at Kinnickinick Ruin). In 2002, he received the Grand Award, Arizona Heritage Preservation Honor Award, from the Arizona Preservation Foundation/State Historic Preservation Office in recognition of years of outstanding service in historic preservation in the state.
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