Raven Site

Discovering The Dig
By Mark Harris
  |  Gorp.com
Raven Site Artifacts, Pottery Sherds

Around 1900 an Indian woman gained permission from the owners of the land to loot the burials. Using Mexican and Navajo labor, she completely terraced the east slope outside the pueblo walls and removed thousands of pottery vessels. She sold these vessels to Santa Fe dealers. The skeletal material she discovered was also valuable. She sold it to Mexican witches, who ground it into potions.

Then she left, and the site remained forgotten until the early 1980s, when the techno-looters moved in. Using backhoes, they again attacked the east slope outside the pueblo, digging trenches hoping to find valuable cultural material. But these new looters with their diesel powered scoops quickly discovered that the burials had already been removed. So they got their jollies by trashing the north pueblo and all the scientific information it contained. They would approach a room with the back hoe, scoop out the center, throw earth, rock, ceramic, beads, points, and anything else in their way, aside. They would then scratch around briefly before moving on to destroy another room.

This had to stop. A bold archaeologist, being careful not to get shot, peeked into one of the scooped out rooms. He saw over fifty different ceramic types in a single looter's hole. This diversity of ceramics on a single site meant the ruins were old, and had been lived in for a long, long time. The technical term is temporal depth.

Realizing that Raven Site Ruins are an important and scientifically valuable part of Arizona's prehistory, efforts were begun to save the site from further destruction. Wendel and Ruth Sherwood, the owners of the land encompassing Raven Site Ruins, contacted every university in the Southwest an attempt to have the site properly excavated and researched. None of these institutions expressed the means to take on such an enormous project. Ruth Sherwood took it upon herself to obtain some archaeological training in an attempt to excavate and curate the cultural material from the site. For many summers she excavated in the hot sun, her Boston terriers asleep under her screens. She recorded her information diligently, and catalogued the material she discovered.

The complete story of Raven Site began to emerge. . .

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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