Norton Allen's excavations in the San Pedro and Dripping Spring Valleys of southeastern Arizona

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Using clues embedded in bag labels, notes, photographs, maps, and diaries, a large group of artifacts in the Norton Allen Collection has been linked with the sites from which they were recovered, in the San Pedro and Dripping Spring Valleys of southeastern Arizona. As firm archaeological inferences depend on context, the identification of "Rancho Lago/Feldman Ruin" as the Flieger Ruin, "Ruin at Bittick's" as the Dudleyville Site, "Camp Grant Pithouse" and "Compound on Hill Above Big Ditch Site" as loci of Ash Terrace, and Norton's site in the Dripping Spring Valley as AZ V:14:3(ASM) not only improves our knowledge of these ancient settlements but makes the individual objects in the Allen Collection much more valuable from the perspective of future research. These items are significant in that they flesh out what little is known about four late prehispanic sites. The pottery, in particular, aids in corroborating and refining the chronology of all four and in expanding the known range of contacts maintained between groups in the San Pedro and Dripping Spring Valleys and people far afield (including the ancient inhabitants of northwestern Chihuahua, the Hopi Mesas, and what is now the Zuni Reservation). In addition, the Allen Collection of objects from these areas includes the only known whole or reconstructible jar of San Carlos Red currently curated by a museum. This jar will be a critical focus for investigators trying to understanding the origin and function of San Carlos Red. Other rarities include the culinary shoe-pot which, as discussed above, helps to mark southeastern Arizona as a key focus for researchers interested in both the spread and the use of these vessels. Also present are many objects that, in context, lend credence to a recently developed model of the origin and spread of Roosevelt Red Ware: the notion that this pottery was made over generations by dispersed enclaves of Kayenta immigrants and their descendants, living in diaspora among different host groups and maintaining a shared identity through a network of ties among these enclaves (Lyons 2003; Lyons, Hill, and Clark 2010; Lyons and Lindsay 2006). The Maverick Mountain Series sherds and the red-slip-stained perforated plate recovered from the Flieger Ruin, one of the valley's latest occupied villages, suggest that traces of northern traditions endured long after the initial appearance of immigrants from the Kayenta region documented at other sites in the San Pedro, such as Reeve Ruin and the Davis Ranch Site (Di Peso 1958; Gerald 1958). The Prieto Indented Corrugated vessel recovered by Norton indicates that the inhabitants of the San Pedro or the Dripping Spring Valleys maintained connections with people in the Point of Pines region, a place long considered to have yielded some of the most abundant and robust evidence of ancient Kayenta immigrants yet encountered (Haury 1958). Perhaps most importantly, among the objects in the Allen Collection is a sample from a mostly destroyed site, AZ V:14:3, one of at least seven pueblos that formed a small community on Dripping Spring Wash near the end of the prehispanic sequence. The loss of most of this site to construction related to State Route 77, and the others to looters using bulldozers, makes this sample truly invaluable for future research. Indeed, it was the research for this paper that allowed me to link Cummings's collection from the 1920s, which was previously known only to have been recovered from the Christmas area, to this particular site. Furthermore, it was the ability to analytically combine the Cummings and Allen collections with the sample recovered by Haury (knowing they were from the same site) that allowed me to document yet another example of Kayenta ceramic technology (a perforated plate fragment) at one of the latest-occupied sites in southern Arizona (based on the presence of Los Muertos Polychrome), supporting the model of the Salado phenomenon discussed above. The recovery of Los Muertos Polychrome from AZ V:14:3(ASM) has regional implications, in that this type is apparently absent from sites in the adjacent San Pedro Valley, as well as most other places south of the Gila River. This spatial and temporal pattern means that future research on the last occupied sites in the region that predate the Spanish Entrada should focus, for the most part, on the Gila River and points north. The research questions briefly addressed here, based on a cursory study of this collection, truly represent the "tip of the iceberg." The Allen Collection will continue to yield important insights for years to come.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-361
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of the Southwest
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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