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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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11/29/2012 2:30:00 PM
Monitoring to increase after Sugarloaf vandalized
Bud Henderson, a site steward at Sugarloaf ruin, indicates the size of one of the excavations discovered last week. Courtesy photo
Bud Henderson, a site steward at Sugarloaf ruin, indicates the size of one of the excavations discovered last week.

Courtesy photo

Archaeological sites around the valley are protected under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Anyone found defacing or pot hunting one of the sites will likely face a felony, including prison time and a large fine.
Archaeological sites around the valley are protected under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Anyone found defacing or pot hunting one of the sites will likely face a felony, including prison time and a large fine.
Wrecking Ruins: Vandals continue to erase the past
By Steve Ayers

Staff Reporter



CORNVILLE - The attempted looting of the Sugarloaf Ruin is, unfortunately, not an isolated incident.

According to Coconino National Forest Archaeologist Peter Pilles, incidents of people tampering with archaeological sites have increased in recent months.

"We have had several incidents of vandalism and graffiti on petroglyph sites," says Pilles.

Pilles says he just received notice that perhaps a Boy Scout Troop camped out near V Bar V had gone to one of the petroglyph sites south of the developed area and etched their names and dates on to a panel.

He said has yet to visit the site so he is unsure of the extent or what can be done to mitigate the damage.

In a separate incident, on an unknown date, someone made a red hand print on one of the petroglyphs in Red Tank Draw.

And, says Pilles, someone rubbed charcoal into the ancient etchings at a remote petroglyph site along the Bell Trail, near the Beaver Creek Ranger Station.

"The charcoal can be fairly easily cleaned up, but things like where someone has etched into the rock, it's very difficult if not impossible to completely remove," he says.

In terms of pot hunting, like what took place recently at Sugarloaf, Pilles says incidents have diminished over the years.

"The big problem we now have at all our sites is graffiti, where people scribble and scratch their names and dates on things. The word's gotten out that you don't dig in sites, but people still don't equate graffiti in the same realm as digging up a ruin," says Pilles.

In addition to what Pilles has seen on sites managed by the Forest Service, Arizona Site Steward Program coordinator Ned Greeneltch says they are seeing more traffic trespassing private sites like Sugarloaf and Hata'lacva.

Hata'lacva, near Clarkdale, was professionally excavated in 1933 and 1934 as part of the Tuzigoot excavation and restoration and like Sugarloaf is owned by the Archaeology Conservancy.

Pilles says the recent rash of rock art defacing is of concern to researchers and frustrating to those whose job it is to protect them.

"Rock art sites are important archaeological sites," say Pilles. "They give us potential insights into the value system and religious concepts of prehistoric people that we don't get from other kinds of archaeological evidence.

"It is still a relatively unknown area for us to examine. They are still something we are grappling with. So keeping them intact is hugely important for future research into who these people were.

"Destroying these sites is damaging to our ability to work with them. It's also illegal, it's stupid and it's dumb."


Steve Ayers
Staff Reporter


CORNVILLE - Jim Graceffa and Bud Henderson had come out to the Sugarloaf ruin a week ago Monday to survey some fence lines.

Founding members of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center, they had been invited by the property owners, the Archaeology Conservancy, as part of a management agreement between the two organizations.

But while walking the property searching for property markers, they were told by a neighbor that some pot hunting materials had been found at the at the hilltop site.

"We did a circuit of the courtyard and found two places where there had been fresh excavation, not a big deal but like where someone had been testing. Then I found two more including one spot where quite a bit of dirt had been moved.

"At that site was a plastic bucket that once contained drywall screws, an aluminum kitchen colander and a one-quart drywall mud container

Sugarloaf is a 40-room Sinaguan pueblo set atop a dome-shaped hill in the neck of a horseshoe curve of Oak Creek, about a mile and a half from its confluence with the Verde River.

Its location is no big secret. Residents of the area have known for decades. Until recently it has been left relatively alone. But according to area site steward coordinator Ned Greeneltch, this is not the first time the site has been pot hunted recently.

"It looks to me like someone had a wild hair. It doesn't appear to have been an organized effort and is probably someone local, maybe kids. It's hard to say.

"It's been happening up there for the better part of a year. There was a considerable amount of digging in one of the rooms on the northwest side of the ruin we spotted about six months ago. There was also an area on the south side that has showed sings of digging," says Greeneltch

Greeneltch says his site stewards, all members of a program sponsored by Arizona State Parks and the State Historic Preservation Office, will be stepping up their monitoring.

The owners of the property, the Archaeology Conservancy, notified the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office that they would like their support in finding the pothunters and that if anyone is apprehended, they would prosecute the full extent of the law.

Because the property is privately owned, just being on the property constitutes trespassing.

According to Peter Pilles, archaeologist with the Coconino National Forest, the extent of the law for pothunters can be considerably more severe than just a trespassing charge.

"There is a fine for defacing public property and there are three ways of evaluating the damage," he says, "There is the value of any artifacts, the cost of repair and restoration as well as what it would have cost professional archaeologists to excavate the site.

"All three are used for establishing a potential fine, which can be anything form a misdemeanor to a felony. A felony is anything over $300 damage. You can't get me out of my office for less than $300 so pretty much anyone doing damage is looking at a felony."

Anyone with information about the vandalism at Sugarloaf or any other valley archaeological site is asked to contact the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.

Taylor Waste
Related Stories:
• Editorial: We all need to be vigilant to stop looting of ancient Indian sites
• Plundering pots at Sugarloaf


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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012
Article comment by: A D

These sites are favorites for my kids and I to go walk on the weekends. We talk about the lifestyle the Indians had and many other discussions. They are wonderful places that really have become a huge part of our family as it is free to go and peaceful.So my question is will we no longer be allowed to visit because we will be charged with trespassing?



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