I got to talk to Peter today, the de facto archaeologist for the TO nation. It was awesome to have an in-depth conversation with a person who shared my niche interest of historic and colonial era archaeology. My first question regarded the recent work of the small mission site that was discovered half on the nation and half on adjacent land. The site represented almost a chapel as opposed to a mission site like that of San Xavier, but was known to be founded by Father Kino on his first trip to the area but the exact location had been lost due to the adobe being eroded by the rain over the last 3 hundred years. When it was finally discovered, it was done using an aerial survey technique, where a Franciscan and Jesuit friar went up in a plane and flew in circles over the proposed site as described in the oral history of the people of the area. They found long straight lines in the middle of a flattened out area of the desert and sure enough, it was determined to be evidence of human habitation after ground proofing via pedestrian survey. While this discovery, made by friars working for the Arizona State Museum, was made over 30 years ago, they missed something huge. The site was actually used previously as an Amerindian religious gathering place since the Pleistocene and into the archaic period with continued use through the Hohokam and the O’Odham. This dude Kino literally plowed over the past 9,000 years of religious history to set up a auxiliary chapel.


On a more technical note, I was very curious about the ability to perform a ground resistivity survey in the area due to the very low level of moisture in the soil and subsurface. Despite single digit percent humidity, it’s not only possible, but the results on Spanish constructions of the colonial era are incredible provided they not be in the foothills of magnetite or ore-rich soils. This is due to the earth-packing system that was used to stabilize the foundation of wattle-and-daube structures, like early iterations of churches and dormitories.

2 Replies to “Archaeology!”

  1. Sounds like the ride to the border with Peter Steere served you and your project well Eric. Peter has done great work with the O’odham for many decades. He is incredibly knowledgable about all aspects of their past and present life. Your note on the Indians’ extended historical use of the area on which San Xavier was built is incredibly interesting, but makes perfect sense when you consider its location. BTW, I never heard Kino referred to as a “dude” before.

  2. I’m really glad you got to spend some extra time with Peter. I figured you would have a job by the time you got out of that truck. Really interestig story about the abandonned mission and how it was rediscovered by the flying friars. Does that site have a name?

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