Local program to explore 'Preserving archaeology of Red Rock District'
The next monthly meeting of the Verde Valley Chapter of the Arizona Archaeological Society will be held on Thursday, Sept. 22, in the Community Room at the Sedona public Library, 3250 White Bear Road, Sedona, at 7 p.m.
A fascinating program: Preserving the Archaeology of the Red Rock District, will be presented by Spence Gustav.
According to Spence, the Red Rock District of the Coconino Forest has one of the richest assemblages of archaeological sites within public lands in the United States! Many of these sites are visited by the public after finding out about them through publications and websites, or by hikers going off established trails. With increased knowledge of locations and visitation to the remote areas of the Red Rock District, preservation has become a significant problem.
Spence explained that preservation often begins with documentation and education. Local volunteers are documenting as many of the archaeology sites as possible to provide a record of the current status of each site. For over 20 years, volunteers from the Archaeology Society and the Sedona Friends of the Forest (FOF) have been docents at Forest Service Cultural Heritage Sites including Honanki, Palatki and V bar V. They provide site information to visitors that enhance the quality of their visit while also monitoring activity to help protect the sites.
In 2011, in response to several incidents of vandalism at or near these sites, a FOF volunteer team, headed by Spence, began converting all of the Forest Service archaeologist's photos to digital format for use in documentation and evaluation of the ongoing situation. This involved the conversion of almost 100,000 prints and transparencies! Following the conversion to digital format, an additional FOF team has been creating a digital database to assist in finding specific information from the photos as needed.
While converting the existing photo data, it was realized that many of the sites in the district had minimal or marginal photo coverage and were not well represented. In 2012, a FOF team began detailed photo documentation of the Palatki area sites followed by Honanki and V bar V. The project was then expanded to photograph other sites in the Red Rock District.
To date, almost 150 sites have been completed resulting in over 50,000 photographs! All site photographs include site and rock art panel identifying numbers, panel element numbers (when possible), room numbers and room wall identifiers. Of the sites done to date, 27 are "new" sites that were previously not represented in the Forest Service databases.
An additional 30-plus sites were known to the archaeologists but had minimal or no photo documentation. When the photo team records these sites, they also have been able to provide up-to-date, accurate site coordinates using GPS technology.
During the evolution of this photo documentation effort, a variety of traditional and relatively new techniques and technology have been employed to gain maximum benefit from the data. Several of these will be highlighted in Spence's presentation.
A further offshoot of this project has been the integration of efforts by the FOF Graffiti Remediation Team. When possible, members of the Graffiti Committee are embedded with the photo team or include a trained member of the photo team to carry out remediation of graffiti in the vicinity of some of these sites. As incidents of graffiti or vandalism are reported, the photo documentation is used to evaluate the impact and potential for remediation.
After over two decades of ongoing efforts to protect and preserve archaeological sites in the Red Rock District, the Friends of the Forest, Cultural Resources Committee received the 2016 Award in Public Archaeology in the category of Private, Nonprofit Entity to recognize the contribution made to the preservation of Arizona's unique heritage!
Anyone interested in being involved should contact the Sedona Friends of the Forest via the website http://www.friendsoftheforestsedona.org/.
Spence is a retired petroleum geologist, with a MSc degree in Geology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. For 35+ years he lived and worked in the international arena including Europe, Middle East, North Africa, West Africa, South America, Central America, and South East Asia. His career overseas provided great access to a variety of archaeological sites around the world.
He has a BSc degree in Archaeology/Anthropology from Hunter College-CUNY. Spence has had extensive archaeological experience in field and laboratory methods in NY, NJ, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, California, N.M., Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, and South Africa.
Spence became seriously involved with photography at an early age. He was asked by his older sister (now a retired professor of Anthropology/Archaeology) to do some photography for her that included sessions in the field and at the American Museum of Natural History. He was hooked and started going to excavations with her while in High School, and working his way through college and graduate school as a technical archaeology and paleontology photographer.
He retired to Sedona in 2007 and immediately went out to Palatki Heritage Site in Sedona to see how he could become a volunteer. He continues to carry out docent duties at the Cultural Heritage sites and trains new docent volunteers as needed. He is also an active member/volunteer with Sedona Friends of the Forest and Verde Search and Rescue.
For over 40 years, since 1973, The Verde Valley Chapter of the Arizona Archaeological Society (VVCAAS) has been actively involved in the archaeology of the Verde Valley and the greater Southwest.
Admission to this month's program is free.