February 2007

During February 2007, Statistical Research, Inc. (SRI) continued its intensive archaeological study of the Joint Courts Complex (JCC) project area. The month saw a shift away from the initial exploratory phase of the project to a more concerted effort to excavate previously discovered graves and other features, as well as the start of the lab analysis of the human remains and other materials recovered so far in excavation.

As planned at the beginning of the project, the size of the field crew grew substantially in February, and the pace of feature excavation increased accordingly. As a result, our planning for how the rest of the field project will proceed has intensified, in order to ensure that all portions of the project area are ready for excavation as the field crew completes work in the areas currently under excavation. SRI supervisory staff, Pima County Facilities Management staff, and many other people involved in planning the Joint Courts Complex met repeatedly during February to coordinate the removal and relocation of buried utility lines. The utility lines in the project area are concentrated under Grossetta Avenue, Council Street, and a small alley that connects Council with Alameda Street. Based on exploratory excavations during the first three months of the project, it is clear that the National Cemetery did not extend into Grossetta Avenue, but both Council Street and the alley almost certainly hold a large number of graves. Archaeological excavation of these features cannot take place until all buried utilities have been abandoned or removed.

Planning has also been underway for the demolition of the last building in the project area, 240 North Stone Avenue. This spacious building currently serves as SRI’s field lab, but by the end of March the entire lab operation will be transferred into two modular buildings placed temporarily in the project area. The two modular buildings will remain until March 2008, when the osteological analysis is scheduled to be completed. The demolition of 240 North Stone should be complete by the end of April, which will allow excavation of the large area beneath it. The building never had a basement and stands atop a portion of the core area of the cemetery; a large number of graves is expected to be found below its footprint.

During February, our excavations within the limits of the National Cemetery included graves both in the old military cemetery and in the larger civilian portion of the cemetery. We also continued to discover additional grave features in the civilian portion of the cemetery. By the end of the month, 232 graves had been discovered within the cemetery as a whole. Of the 232 discovered graves, 148 had been fully excavated or were under excavation by the end of the month. As in previous months, the majority of the total number of discovered graves were found south of Council Street, where the largest contiguous area has been opened through exploratory excavation.

In addition to the many graves associated with the National Cemetery, we excavated a number of other, post-cemetery archaeological features, most notably three deep privy pits associated with houses that once stood in the project area. All three privy pits were filled with trash, including many whole items, such as medicine bottles, ceramic dishes, and personal items. Two of the pits are very deep and excavation has stopped temporarily until other features in the surrounding area, including graves, are fully excavated. Safety regulations require that the walls of the deep privy pits be stepped back by mechanical excavation to avoid collapse, but the mechanical excavation cannot proceed until adjacent features are documented and removed.

Perhaps the most remarkable discovery in February was the remains of a prehistoric pit house dating to the Cienega phase of the Late Archaic (or Early Agricultural) period, ca. 800 BC–AD 200. This feature consists of a shallow, circular basin, ringed on its interior with post holes; it also preserved a hearth and several subfloor storage pits. Artifacts found within the pit house include two distinctive Cienega-phase projectile points, drilled shell beads, and a variety of ground stone artifacts. The pit house was found just inches below the asphalt of a modern parking lot and in the presumed northeast corner of the old military cemetery. Two military graves dating from the 1860s or 1870s were excavated into the west side of the pit house, creating a remarkable visual juxtaposition of prehistoric and historic features.