Monday, March 26, 2012

The Thieves of Time

March 19, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

It is tragic to see the graffiti left behind by visitors on many sites. Thieves have
blasted away petroglyphs trying to remove them for resale or placement in their
own yards.
The preservation of prehistoric ruins and the protection of artifacts are becoming a major problem for law enforcement agencies in the United States. Various agencies are understaffed and it is often difficult to get a conviction for pilfering archaeological sites. The unlawful practice of removing Pre-Columbian artifacts from public lands has become so rampant during the past several decades, officials believe hundreds of ancient sites have been seriously damaged or destroyed. This plunder of public lands for profit by unscrupulous individuals destroys the opportunity for professionals to study and preserve these sites for future generations of Americans.

Thousands of Pre-Columbian artifacts have been excavated from public lands throughout the American Southwest and sold on the international black market for huge profits. The market for illegally obtained artifacts is immense and continues to grow daily. Some experts surmise this activity involves some one hundred million dollars annually in the United States alone.

The public lands of Arizona have become one the most common sources of illegally obtained artifacts that appear on the world market. Artifacts crafted by early Salado, Hohokam and Anasazi cultures appear in homes and businesses around the world. Europeans and Orientals will pay enormous prices for authentic artifacts from the Southwest. The people who steal from public lands steal from all of us while destroying the archaeological history of the Southwest.

The profit is so great in the illegal artifact trade that many people become involved believing it is a good way to supplement their income. These same individuals know detection by law enforcement officials is low risk. They also know the removal of artifacts from public lands can result in heavy fines and/or time in prison, but this knowledge does not prevent them from breaking the law.

The illegal market involving the recovery, transportation, distribution and sale of Pre-Columbian artifacts is so large and lucrative that modern pothunters have become very sophisticated in the use of modern communications equipment. This knowledge and equipment helps them safely remove valuable artifacts from numerous regions in the Southwest.

The pot diggers are so bold they even use heavy equipment for excavation. Many illegal artifact digs are on lands easily accessible to trucks and digging equipment (backhoes) until recently. The accessible
premium sites have been exhausted in many areas. Now even the most inaccessible sites have become prime targets for the “thieves of time” because of the escalating values of Pre-Columbian artifacts. Certain single pots can be worth ten to thirty thousand dollars on the black market in Europe or the Orient.

Artifact hunters now use All Terain Vehicles (ATV’s) and motorcycles to access extremely remote area. A solo excavator works alone in extremely remote regions that require several hours of walking to reach. These thieves preserve the secret of their work site like a prospector protects his mine. One pot could bring them enough money to cover three months of hard work in town.

Desert pot digging is done at night in the summer months usually under extreme conditions. ATV’s, good detection equipment, surplus military nightscopes and sophisticated communications equipment usually prevents detection by law enforcement officials. Law enforcement agencies often resort to undercover operations to arrest and indict such individuals. All law enforcement officials have the power to enforce the antiquity act, however it is almost impossible to patrol the remote areas where these thieves work.

The Superstition Wilderness Area, some archaeologist say, is a treasure trove of Pre-Columbian artifacts. The wilderness status in one way protects the many Pre-Columbian archaeological sites in the area, but on the other hand the status limits the type of protection needed in some cases. One classic case for the need of protection is the cliff dwelling at Roger’s Canyon. I first observed the ruin in 1948 with my father. The entire roof of the ruin was in tact except for the smoke hole on our first visit. Today one-third of the roof has caved in because of visitors climbing on the ruin. This cliff dwelling is one of the finest Salado sites in Arizona that has never been reconstructed by contemporary man. The Wilderness Act of 1964 prevents the placement of a steel grate over the entrance of this ruin to prevent people from entering it. This ruin will probably not survive another hundred years without some kind of intervention on our behalf. It is ironic that this ruin has survived a thousand years until we arrived on the landscape.

Many parts of the Superstition Wilderness fringe area has been damaged by those  who do not respect or understand the importance of preserving or protecting artifacts, petroglyphs and ruins. Once a site has been damaged it is  irreversibly destroyed. It is tragic to see the amount of graffiti left behind by visitors on many of the sites where petroglyphs can be found. Thieves have blasted away petroglyphs trying to remove them for resale or placement in their own yards.

The international market is the true focal point of most illegal Pre-Columbian artifact sales. There would be no market for this illegal practice if the general public did not ignore the problem. It is so tragic much of our prehistory in the Southwest is being lost to the numerous illegal artifact dealers worldwide.

The federal, state, and county governments have neither the resources nor manpower to enforce the antiquity laws that protect our public lands from desecration. The only hope we have of protecting our public lands from these modern day vandals is education. This education must encourage the public to report any suspicious activity in remote areas known to have Pre-Columbian sites.

The Pre-Columbian artifacts we save today may someday unlock the secrets of our past and explain what life was like in the desert Southwest a thousand years ago. Or maybe we will save some interesting archaeological fact for members of a future generation to study.

These archaeological secrets have survived thousands of years, but in only one century modern man has destroyed an enormous amount of our heritage. The heritage of this region found beneath the ground is rapidly being eroded away, not by erosion, but by the greed of modern man.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wilderness Treasure

March 12, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Superstition Wilderness Area is a significant treasure trove of ancient archaeological sites belonging to the Hohokam and Salado cultures. Mixed among the Hohokam and Salado cultures are the more contemporary Apaches and Yavapais.

The Apache and Yavapais use of the Superstition Wilderness Area was more superficial than that of the Hohokam and Salado. Both of these cultures built mud and stone structures. Remnants of these structures can still be found throughout much of the area. Circlestone, Roger’s Canyon Cliff Dwelling and Garden Valley are classic examples of these types of structures.

It is difficult to estimate when man first occupied these lands in what is known today as the Superstition Wilderness. Many archaeologists suggest ancient cultures were using the region for gathering and hunting subsistence as early as 350 B.C. There are lithics that suggest a primitive hunting culture may have existence in the area 8,000 – 10,000 years ago. The Salado likely arrived on the scene around 900 A.D. These architects of mud and stone left several excellent examples of their work in the region. You might say their architectural ingenuity created structures that have survived the ravages of time.

However, more damage has occurred to the Salado cliff dwellings in Roger’s Canyon during the past thirty years then in the previous eight hundred years. This damage is the result of modern man’s ignorance to the fragility of these ancient structures. The ruin was in perfect shape at the turn of the century. When I first visited the ruin in 1948 with my father, it appeared as if its inhabitants had just moved out.

Another interesting prehistoric ruin in the region is Circlestone. This 136-foot circular stonewall still defies explanation. The ruin is located on a grassy knoll. The elevation of the knoll is 6,010 feet above sea level and it is located in the eastern portion of the wilderness. Knowledge of the ruin’s existences has been with us since the territorial days.

Theories associated with this structure are numerous, however actual explanations with supporting documentation are unavailable. Early visitors to the site believed Circlestone was a Spanish corral or fortress. Others believed the site to be one of the U.S. Army’s early heliograph stations. Not until the 1970’s was the site accepted as an ancient Native American archaeological site. Today, Circlestone remains as one of the major enigmas of the Superstition Wilderness Area.

The discovery of surface potshards and fetish has created interesting speculation about Circlestone. Mr. Sam Henderson, an earlier superintendent at Casa Grande National Monument, has suggested the site may have been used as a trading center or even a special ceremonial site.

Garden Valley was farmed by a small group of Hohokams probably some one thousand years ago when the climatic conditions were more  favorable. This large valley flat has more than 200 acres of arable land when there is a sufficient supply of water. Today mesquite and chain cholla have become the climax vegetation in the area because the cattle growers over-grazed the area for the past century.

A ruin was located in the center of the valley. This structure probably housed twenty-five to thirty individuals, while small caves on the fringe of the valley contained other families. Prior to 1930, the valley floor was literally covered with stone tools used by the ancient inhabitants who cultivated this special parcel of land.

Late in November of 1931, the Arizona Republican cosponsored an archaeological expedition lead by the City of Phoenix archaeologist Odds  Halseth. The expedition undertook selective collecting of surface artifacts and documented their location before removal. Halseth, Harvey Mott and other members of the archaeological expedition made a cursory inventory of surface artifacts they did not collect. Several hundred lithics were inventoried on the surface, recorded, and left in place. Today, none of these lithics remain on the floor of Garden Valley. They all have been carried off by collectors during the past sixty-nine years. My father and I use to walk through Garden Valley on our way to Second Water. Sometimes, my father would take a side trip and show me the matates and manos. They were still quite numerous in the late 1940’s if you looked around closely for them. The lithics of Garden Valley were primarily indicative of the Hohokam culture.

There is considerable evidence to suggest the Pimas gathered and foraged in the area long before 1500 A.D. The Pimas gathered the seeds of many plants common the Superstition Mountain region including the cacti fruit and the seedpods of various legumes such as the Mesquite, Ironwood, Palo Verde and Acacia.

The Apaches and Yavapais probably moved into these rugged mountains around 1500 A.D. The Apaches and Yavapais both constructed temporary rancherias or farmsteads in locations such as Garden Valley, Frog Tanks, Dismal Valley, Rock Tanks, Reavis Valley, along Tortilla Creek and many of the tributaries draining into the Salt River.

Most of these rancherias and farmstead were destroyed during the U.S. military campaigns against the Apaches and Yavapais between 1864-1868.

The Apaches and Yavapais used many of the caves and undercuts along Fish Creek Canyon, Tortilla Creek, La Barge and Boulder Canyon  when they were pursued by the Army from Fort McDowell. The Native Americans often stole cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and mules and took them to the more accessible caves to be slaughtered for food. Bones of these animals have been found in caves along La Barge Canyon and Tortilla Canyons. It is estimated there are more than 2,500 archaeological sites within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness Area. During the past fifty years, I have recorded hundreds of sites on several maps.

The Superstition Wilderness Area is a fantastic artifact and heritage trove of ancient cultures that existed here for the past 1,000 years or so. It will take archaeologist a century or more to sift through the archaeological history of the Superstition Wilderness and develop a systematic history of the area. Until that time, the National Wilderness Act helps to preserve this valuable resource for future archaeologists and scientists to study. As we hike and ride through this wilderness area, we are stewards of this land. We, all of us, are responsible for its protection, so future  enerations can enjoy the beauty, isolation, and historical significance of this wilderness.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mammoth, 1897 - An Epic Rescue

March 5, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

James Stevens (at left) in a photo taken as rescue workers and a doctor attended
to him right after he was brought to the surface at Mammoth Mine in 1897. In a truly
epic story in the history of mining, no man had ever survived for 13 days
underground in absolute darkness without any kind of assistance from above ground.

A gold miner named James Stevens, working at the Mammoth Mine in Goldfield, Arizona Territory, was buried alive on July 5, 1897. The accident occurred during the swing shift on Saturday night while Stevens was working sixty feet below the surface. The following is an excerpt from the Arizona Daily Gazette, page five, column one, July 7, 1897. (The old Mammoth Mine is located 4.5 miles northeast of Apache Junction on SR88, the Apache Trail.)

“From what can be learned the night shift had just gone on work in the Mammoth Mine, and a few of the day shift had not yet been hauled to the surface. One of the day shift, a man named Stevens, was working on the 50-foot level of the mine, when, without warning, the ground on which stood the company’s carpenter shop, sank and tons of debris fell into the 50-foot level.

“Fortunately, Stevens was working at the farther end of the drift and escaped being crushed to death. However, it is possible that a worse fate awaits him, for unless he gets relief very shortly, he will succumb to the foul air.

“The debris has effectively closed the shaft and no air can possibly reach the entombed man. Stevens has two gallons of water and several candles with him, and he can hold out for some time, unless as before stated, he dies for the want of fresh air.”

On July 13, 1897, seven days after Stevens was entombed in a cave-in, he gave indications he was still alive by tapping on a pipe that ran through the area he was entombed in. Newspaper accounts gave Stevens little chance for survival.

The papers reported the arrival of a diamond drill on July 13, which would be used in an attempt to rescue Stevens. The trapped miner and the story of his rescue capture the headlines of Arizona newspapers of the period.

Since July 5, it was reported, the miners had been working twenty-four hours a day to free Stevens, but to no avail.

The following article appeared in the Mesa Free Press on July 16, eleven days after Stevens’ was entombment.

“Whether Stevens, the entombed miner at Goldfield, be rescued alive or not, the miners who have worked night and day to save him will be commended for the efforts they have made for the rescue of their comrade.

“Miners are proverbial for the abundance of humanity that fills their hearts and leads them to risk their own lives for their fellow man in distress. No men ever worked more steadily than have the miners of Goldfield in this case, and it is yet hoped that their efforts will be crowned with success.”

On July 17, 1897, thirteen days after the tragedy began, Stevens was rescued. The rescue required the sinking of a 20-inch vertical shaft to the depth of 60 feet in solid rock. A full crew of miners worked twenty-four hours a day for thirteen days to rescue Stevens from his would-be grave.

On July 18, the headlines of the Arizona Republican read, “Stevens Is Saved a Living Skeleton.” As the rescue shaft broke through the roof of the drift Stevens called to his rescuers, “Is that you, Joe? For God’s sake, hurry! I am burning with thirst.”

Joe Megram and Dan Danielson found Stevens. These miners had been digging steady for more than ten hours. Megram reached Stevens at 7:45 a.m. and found him alive. When Stevens’ was removed from the drift he actually stood on his own feet. He told the rescue group his candles were gone after five days and he ran out of water the eleventh day.

The rescue of James Stevens at the Mammoth Mine in Goldfield on July 17, 1897, was one of the epic mining rescues in Arizona history, and actually, in world history. The story filled newspapers across Arizona and the nation. Few men in the history of mining have survived thirteen days trapped beneath the earth.

Monday, March 5, 2012

From Dreams to Reality

February 27, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

My father introduced me to one of the most important aspects of my life; historical preservation.

Since those early days, I have been involved in a variety of community projects that involved historical preservation. There was the historical designation of the Apache Trail, involvement with the Superstition Mountain Museum, the rededication of the Dutchman’s Monument in Apache Junction, and various publications over the years. My interest has always been associated with the Superstition Mountains always trying to changes dreams to reality.

I don’t recall the first time I hiked to the top of Bluff Spring’s Mountain, but it was with my father sometime in the late 1940’s. I was attending Hill Street Elementary School in Globe, Arizona. It was springtime when my father and I climbed to the top of Bluff Springs Mountain.

We drove out to the old Quarter Circle U Ranch and then hiked up Bark Draw to the old William’s Camp, then east toward Bluff Spring’s water trough and cabin. We started our ascent of the mountain from the southeast end. I was worn out by the time we arrived at the base of Bluff Springs, but my dad wanted to climb to the top and into the interior of the mountain. My back pack was quite heavy even though I was only carrying my bedroll, pillow and some water. Dad was carrying our food and other necessities. We climbed over the southeastern end of Bluff Spring’s Mountain and hiked down into the canyon on top of the mountain. Dad wanted to camp near water so we hiked down into Bluff Spring’s Mountain Canyon and set camp near a pool of water.

We had a small two-man pup tent. Once camp was set, Dad rested for awhile then decided to do a little looking around. He suggested I stay in camp, however, in my spare time I could gather of some wood for the fire. He also advised me to be very careful about snakes because it was springtime and they might be out.

The reason for my father’s trip to Bluff Spring’s Mountain was to find something that was Spanish or Mexican. Something that would prove the Spanish or Mexicans were mining or prospecting in the area. Dad was checking out a story he was told by old Pete Petrasch who lived in Globe. According to Pete, he and his brother Hermann had a camp on Tortilla Mountain. Pete had committed suicide about three or four years earlier.

Dad knew most of the old timers around Phoenix, Globe and Miami. He was always listening for another treasure story or tale that he could check out. Father loved to check out lost mine stories. It was his hobby and an opportunity for some recreation and outdoor fun.

I wandered around the camp site area searching for wood while dad hiked up toward the eastern façade of Bluff Spring’s Mountain. Petrasch had told father there were some steel rings embedded in the rock near the eastern edge of the mountain. When dad returned to camp he said he found nothing that would confirm old Petrasch’s story.

The next morning we hiked down Bluff Spring’s Mountain Canyon toward the north end of the mountain. All I could think about was the long hike out of this country. We spent the morning hours looking around the north end of the mountain. We did discover some markings and maybe some very ancient petroglyphs on an outcrop of black rock, probably basalt.

By ten o’clock, we were back in camp and packed up for the long walk out. Thank goodness, I thought, most of our hike out would be downhill. We hiked down off the southeast end of the mountain to the Crystal Springs area, then headed for Miner’s Summit.

The hike from Miner’s Summit to the Quarter Circle U Ranch is a long walk, but most of it was downhill. It was on hikes like these that I grew to love the desert. I was very fortunate to have a father who loved to take me into the hills and share his dreams and expectations with me. Dad never really believed the Dutchman’s mine existed, but he wasn’t going to leave anything up for grabs without checking it out. Basically, this is how I was introduced to the tale of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine.

My father instilled in me the importance of historical preservation. He always said the cultural history of a region was worth preserving for future generations to explore and learn about. He always was talking about the many characters and their dreams of striking it rich. His dream certainly has been fulfilled with the construction and development of two museums in the Apache Junction area, especially two museums on the Apache Trail.

I’ll never forget the conversations he had with Jack Anderson before he died about someday having a museum in Apache Junction about our area.

The Curtis’ and Andersons in 1938 gave the Don’s Club of Arizona a perpetual easement on a piece of land they owned, 50 feet by 100 feet, to build their monument. One might say this was the beginning of the museum movement in Apache Junction. Yes, I agree this is stretching it quite a bit. Then again, maybe not! This all started when I was born in 1938.

Today, Apache Junction has two museums. One is located on the Apache Trail near Mountain View Road and the other is located in the Goldfield Ghost Town. Both organizations are preserving the unique history of Superstition Mountain and the surrounding region. I am sure your support of either or both of these fine organizations will help preserve the history of this area for future generations to enjoy.