Grand Canyon Field Institute's
"Hands On Archaeology" Participants
Excavate Historic Site in Grand Canyon Village
By the Grand Canyon Cultural Resources Program
Participants in the 2011 Grand Canyon Field Institute's "Hands On Archaeology" class excavated a historic site within the Grand Canyon Village that will be impacted by construction of a multipurpose trail.
Students in the Hands On class learned about excavation techniques while assisting Grand Canyon National Park archaeologists evaluate the section of the site that the trail will cross. This year was the first time that an excavation project was the focus of a Hands On class. Previous courses consisted of surveying and recording new archaeology sites.
The Greenway III Multipurpose Trail will connect the community of Tusayan, just outside the park boundary, with Grand Canyon Village. The new trail follows an existing utility corridor through the archaeological site.
The historic site dates to between 1919 and 1928 and was a construction laborers’ camp used during the development and construction of the South Entrance Road, one of the first automotive roads in Grand Canyon National Park. The National Park Service and the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office agreed that the excavation project would mitigate damages to the archeological site by trail construction.
Grand Canyon National Park archaeologist Charlie Webber led the project. He said, “Minor excavations in sites such as this allow the NPS to assess how a construction project may alter them. The GCFI course helped the park complete this project while allowing for a unique education experience for class participants.”
The excavation of the archaeological site involved three main steps. First, the construction zone in part of the archaeological site was gridded into one meter units .
Then all surface artifacts, including historic glass, china fragments, and metal can fragments, in the units were collected by the crew while walking shoulder to shoulder through the entire construction zone. After all artifacts on the surface were collected, actual excavation could begin.
Webber said, “Class participants learned about all parts of excavation in this project, including the concept of digging in arbitrary 10 centimeter levels, carefully screening excavated dirt for artifacts, completing the requisite paperwork, and completing profile and plan-view drawings of their excavations.”
The purpose of excavating was to discover if subsurface archaeological deposits were present. Randomly selected excavation units within the construction area provided a representative sampling of artifact distribution, soil stratigraphy, and topographic features.
A total of 24 units were excavated during the class. Webber said, “We learned that the site consisted mostly of surface artifacts; no buried archaeological materials were found during the project. This excavation project, and the resulting project report, is the first step in the protection of this irreplaceable cultural resource.”
The site will be monitored following the opening of the greenway trail to assess if increased visitor traffic is affecting it over time. If monitoring indicates that the archaeological site is being damaged by use of the greenway trail, more extensive treatment measures may be needed.
Part of a larger series of hands on service-based classes which include botanical surveys and the surveying of Grand Canyon springs, the Hands On Archaeology class is one of GCFI's most unique programs. The hands on courses combine volunteerism, education, and fun.
In addition to learning about the park's prehistory, via presentations by park archaeologists, visiting archaeological sites and museum exhibits, and through the hands on experience, participants in the Hands On Archaeology trip made important contribution to the park's Cultural Resources Program.
Participants in group photo:Click Here to download (3 MB .jpg file)
Standing: Karen Greig, Eleanor and John Kennedy, Gale Dom, Stephanie Welch (GCA Polk Intern), Charlie Webber (GRCA Archeologist), Carl Wargula, and David Plaza (GRCA Archeological Technician)
Kneeling: Kim Hocking, and Shelley Szeghi (GRCA Archeologist)