The University of Arizona

Rock Art Ranch Field School

Petroglyphs at Rock Art Ranch Petroglyphs at Rock Art Ranch
Photo by Rich Lange

From June through mid-July 2012, Arizona State Museum archaeologists E. Charles Adams and Richard Lange will be directing new archaeological investigations at Rock Art Ranch. This field school is offered in conjunction with the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology. Sixteen undergraduate students and two graduate students comprise the team.

Rock Art Ranch, owned privately by Brantley Baird and his family, is located about 20 miles southeast of Winslow in northeastern Arizona. The ranch is named after a large and significant array of petroglyph panels located in Chevelon Canyon on the property’s western boundary. These panels have been thoroughly researched and documented; some may date as early as 6000 BCE while others are as recent as 1300 CE.

The study area lies at the boundary between three major archaeological traditions: Mogollon in the canyons and mountains to the south, Sinagua on mesas and canyons to the west, and ancestral Pueblo on the plateaus and mesas to the north. Research on adjacent sites suggests that each of these groups occupied the larger region at different points in time and that the local population chose to trade with the neighboring groups or were joined by them.

Metates from Rock Art Ranch

Metates from Rock Art Ranch
photo by Chuck Adams

During 2011, the field school surveyed 1200 acres. A total of 15 sites were discovered and intensive mapping and collections were done at several of the sites. Four sites are pre-ceramic with estimated ranges of occupation between 3500 BCE and 500 CE. The remainder of the sites have ceramics and date between 600 and 1200 CE.  Excavations were conducted at two small pueblos dating to ca. 1200 CE revealing partially subterranean pueblo rooms with stone masonry and numerous plaza features dating to the pueblo occupation and much earlier.

The goals of the 2012 field season are to survey new areas, which are expected to reveal many more sites, to test the pre-ceramic sites documented in 2011, and to continue excavations at the two pueblos. Goals of the fieldschool are to gain an understanding of how the landscape was used by groups over the past 6-8000 years, how and why groups migrated to and from the area, the nature and direction of exchange with groups outside the area, and what role rock art played in communicating identity and ownership. Excavations will help develop a tighter chronology for the area and provide details on regional affiliation of settlers, the nature and regional organization of exchange relations, length of site occupation and subsistence base.  

Students at work at Rock Art Ranch

Students at work at Rock Art Ranch
photo by Chuck Adams

In addition to conducting an archaeological survey of Rock Art Ranch and adjoining private ranches, students will be taught how to map archaeological sites, locate themselves on the landscape using maps and GPS units, identify and record sites found on survey, and properly excavate and document artifacts.

Collaborating on site excavation is Vincent M. LaMotta, UA graduate and assistant professor at University of Illinois, Chicago. LaMotta is excavating two small pueblos of 5-10 rooms occupied around 1200 CE.

The field school is funded by the School of Anthropology’s field school endowment, Arizona State Museum’s Burgan Fund, and student tuition and fees. If you are interested in applying go to this link on the School of Anthropology’s website.Opens in a new window The field school is expected to continue in the summer of 2013.

Because the land is privately owned, public access and free public tours are not readily available. Paid tours of Rock Art Ranch are offered by Blue Feather Tours.Opens in a new window

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