CAMP VERDE - In October, the Verde Valley Archaeology Center celebrates its third anniversary.
In this short history, a consortium of VVAC personnel has participated in 11 excavations - 10 at the Champagne Springs site in Dove Creek, Colo.
This summer, the VVAC went to the Champagne Springs site three times. According to VVAC Secretary Bud Henderson, the Center has developed a friendship with David Dove, owner and overseer of Champagne Springs. Dove is the son of Don Dove, one of the four founders of the Arizona Archaeological Society.
"A few years ago, David Wilcox was leading a VVAC tour of this part of southwest Colorado, and I met Jim Graceffa [president of the VVAC Board of Directors] at that time," says David Dove. "We made plans for the group to return for the purpose of taking part in test excavations I was conducting here with a few members of the Colorado Archaeological Society. We've just completed our third season of three to four field schools per season."
According to Henderson, the VVAC has enjoyed a professional relationship with Dove, "a true steward of that prehistoric culture who owns, and fiercely protects, two of the more culturally significant archaeological sites in the Anasazi world. We have been privileged to participate in 10 field schools over that period - carefully excavating selected units, defining the structures, studying the profiles, analyzing the artifacts, and documenting our findings."
Jeanne and R.J. Smith participated in each of the VVAC's excavations this summer. Jeanne is the VVAC's educational coordinator, and R.J. is on the VVAC's board of directors.
Able to take part in the excavations, Jeanne and R.J. consider themselves lucky.
"Very few people get a chance to excavate a prehistoric city, that is unless you happen to be a member of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center in Camp Verde," Jeanne says. "When we began this project three years ago, we really had great expectations. They all have been realized - and then some."
"This site in southwestern Colorado, called Champagne Springs, because of sweet water coming from a nearby spring, has everything any avocational or professional archaeologist could want," Jeanne explains. "Great kivas, blocks of rooms, pit houserooms, and just to top it off, there are two separate cities within shouting distance of each other. But here is the problem, and it is a big one. Tons of dirt have drifted in over the centuries, and in order to really know what is under those intriguing mounds, all those tons of dirt have to be moved. I don't see any dirt movers. So, that is where we come in."
Because archeologists spend a great deal of time digging, excavations are often nicknamed "digs." A fondness for the site is not the only reason why the VVAC has made 10 trips to Champagne Springs.
"It took us two years to finally reach the floor of the pit houseroom, bucket by bucket, that had by this time become our second home," Jeanne says. "In those two years we found many things that were beginning to give as an idea of how this room was used and information about the people who lived here as long as 1,000 years ago. Needless to say, many other wonderful things have been found and documented by our group. All remain stored close to where they were found, and probably will be available some day for research."
Henderson says that research is one of the two reasons for an excavation. The other is to salvage a damaged site. A site in such condition, he says, "must be mitigated. You extract whatever science you can, before the site is altered or destroyed."
As a member of the Verde Valley Archaeology Society, Jo Parrish would be considered an avocational archaeologist. Parrish, who also went on the dig, says she has been interested in archaeology for as long as she can remember.
"My father's folks were from Illinois, Indiana and Ohio; and growing up he talked about Indian mounds. The area in Colorado in which I grew up was also steeped in historic Indian lore. The valley in which we lived was one of the routes the Utes took from the plains to their summer hunting grounds in the mountains. As a child, and even now, I watched every PBS program on archaeology."