Archaeology Center discovers vandalism at ancient sites

August 26, Site Watch volunteers discovered active vandalism at the site in Cornville, as evidenced by freshly dug soil and collection buckets. The vandals were digging in an ancient dwelling room apparently in search of possible artifacts to sell. Photos courtesy of  the Verde Valley Archaeology Center.

August 26, Site Watch volunteers discovered active vandalism at the site in Cornville, as evidenced by freshly dug soil and collection buckets. The vandals were digging in an ancient dwelling room apparently in search of possible artifacts to sell. Photos courtesy of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center.

CORNVILLE -- The Verde Valley Archaeology Center has alerted U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement to vandalism of a ancient dwelling site on the Coconino National Forest in Cornville. Another instance of vandalism was discovered by Site Watch volunteers the week before at a second site in Cornville.

The mission of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center includes the protection and preservation of archaeological sites in the Verde Valley. VVAC Site Watch (www.vvarchcenter.org/sitewatch) is a program of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center that promotes the importance of education about common cultural and natural heritages and encourages public responsibility in the protection and preservation of cultural and natural resources on public and private lands.

August 26, Site Watch volunteers discovered active vandalism at the site in Cornville, as evidenced by freshly dug soil and collection buckets. The vandals were digging in an ancient dwelling room apparently in search of possible artifacts to sell.

According to a Ken Zoll, executive director of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center, human activities can impact the integrity of archaeological sites. When sites are damaged, important information about past lifeways is lost because the people of the past will never be here again to live their lives as they once did. The evidence they left in archaeological sites is finite and cannot renew itself once it has been disturbed.

“Activities, such as pot hunting that cause ground disturbance might break, chip, crush, or move artifacts. Features such as ancient campfires or hearths may be destroyed. People traveling off trail by bike, horse, or foot, and vehicles traveling off road can damage sites, often without being aware they are causing permanent harm. Flooding and erosion can cause some of the same harm to sites. Campfires outside of designated campsites can contaminate archaeological sites and cause smoke damage to rock art. Fires, both wild and intentional, can cause bedrock to spall, crumble or flake off into pieces. Rock art and milling elements can be damaged or destroyed by fire,” Zoll said in a news release.

The VVAC and the Forest Service relies on volunteers to periodically visit sites to hopefully deter vandals, said Zoll.

The VVAC requests the assistance of public to report vandalism to the VVAC. If vandalism has been discovered or observed, the Center asks the public to call or leave a voice message at 928-567-0066, or email sitewatch@vvarchcenter.org. Include as much information on the location as possible such as what trail you were on. A GPS location would be very helpful. You do not have to leave your contact information unless you wish to receive a follow up report.

“The Center cautions that if vandalism is in progress, do not confront the individual(s) for your own safety,” said Zoll. “A photo, including of nearby parked vehicles, would be helpful if you can safely take one. If you discover suspected past vandalism, a report should be made but do not walk around the site unnecessarily since law enforcement will be looking for clues that you may inadvertently disturb. Your call or email information will be forwarded to the site watch volunteer assigned to that location who will visit the site and report to the appropriate official.”

The Center is located at 385 S. Main St., Camp Verde. The museum exhibits are free to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm. Additional information on the Center’s activities, including the Site Watch program, is available at www.vvarchcenter.org, or by calling 928-567-0066.

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