CAMP VERDE - Those interested in having an out-of-this-world experience may want to visit the Verde Valley Archaeology Center sooner than later.
By summer's end, the Camp Verde Meteorite will have returned home: Not back to space, but back to Arizona State University, ending its six month loan.
"The Camp Verde Meteorite is a fragment from the Meteor Crater meteorite," said Ken Zoll, executive director of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center. "It originated in Canyon Diablo east of Flagstaff."
How and why the 135-pound, nearly two-foot long meteorite ended-up in Camp Verde - a nearly 100-mile hike - is a tale shrouded in intrigue and mystery.
Sometime after falling to earth some 50,000 years ago, the meteorite was discovered by American Indian inhabitants outside Flagstaff.
It is believed that the meteorite was much-revered by the community, as later documented by archeologists.
"It was wrapped in a ceremonial turkey feather bag and protected by flat rocks," Zoll said
The Camp Verde Meteorite somehow made its way down to Camp Verde, where it was re-discovered some 100 years ago by Mesa-based relic hunter George Dawson.
Dawson was poking through a pile of dirt at an ancient dwelling on Wingfield Mesa east of Clear Creek when he uncovered the meteorite in what appeared to be a sacred burial site.
Dawson kept the nickel-iron meteorite for 20 years, eventually selling it for $75 to collector Dr. Henry Nininger of Sedona.
The meteorite remained in Nininger's American Meteorite Museum (now part of the Arroyo Robles Hotel) until 1960, when it was acquired by Arizona State University.
Along with the Camp Verde Meteorite on loan from ASU, other locally-discovered meteorites are also part of the exhibit.
For example, a softball-sized brown specimen uncovered along the Verde River might have gone unnoticed by a casual hiker.
"A meteorite can look like river cobble," said Zoll. "It's identified by the lack of oxygen in its composition."
Although the Camp Verde Meteorite Exhibit is leaving Aug. 31, a new exhibit will soon follow.
"A collection of over 20,000 items was donated to the Center by the Paul Dyck Family Foundation," Zoll said. "We are hoping to have this exhibit open by September or October."
The Verde Valley Archaeology Center got its start in 2008 when artifacts unearthed during the construction of the Grey Fox subdivision in Cottonwood were destined to be shipped outside the Verde Valley.
A decision was made to display the items locally by creating a museum to house them.
"When we first opened, the Yavapai-Apache Nation donated our first collections," said Zoll. "We work closely with them to assure that their history is respected."
"Our mission is to be the premier facility in the Southwest for the historical study of the Verde Valley," Zoll said.
The Verde Valley Archaeology Center is located in downtown Camp Verde at 385 S. Main St.
The hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The center is closed Tuesdays and also closed on Sundays through August.
Admission is free.
For more information, call (928) 567-0066 or visit online at www.verdevalleyarchaeology.org.(The following comes from a press release from the Verde Valley Archaeology Center)
CAMP VERDE - Archaeological site vandalism is an on-going issue, with four major instances of vandalism documented since 2012.
For many years, the Forest Service has relied on the State of Arizona's Site Steward Volunteer Program to recruit and train site monitor volunteers who regularly visit their assigned sites and report on any vandalism. However, the number of volunteers is inadequate and even though a site is regularly monitored, vandalism continues. More is needed and the State program is in need of many more site stewards.
To support this new program, the Verde Valley Archaeology Center has received three Arizona Community Foundation (ACF) grants totaling more than $10,000. These grants were awarded by the ACF of Sedona, the ACF of Yavapai County and the ACF Boynton Canyon Preservation Fund.
These grants will support several components of the Verde Valley Site Watch program including:
100 New Site Stewards
The primary focus of this program is to support the Site Steward Volunteer Program with the recruitment and training and retraining of site stewards. The goal is to train 100 new site stewards in 2016.
The Center will engage existing hiking groups and clubs that often visit archaeological sites as a source of new site stewards. Site steward training will be held at the Center.
Public Awareness Campaign
The Center is developing a public awareness campaign through the use of:
Preservation posters and rack cards at visitor centers and other gathering locations
Public Service Announcements on local TV and radio stations
Weatherproof signage at archaeological sites encouraging respect for the sites and notifying visitors that the sites are monitored by site stewards and/or electronically
School Education Initiative
Studies have shown that most graffiti at sites are not done by the visiting public but rather by local school age children. This will be addressed through:
High School and Middle School Poster Contest during the coming school year to develop anti-graffiti and preservation posters for display in schools
High School Outreach to provide presentations and/or exhibits on local archaeology and heritage
Executive Director Ken Zoll described the program as "a vital addition to the cultural resource and heritage management of these ancient sites.
"It is our intention to provide public education programs that will promote, guide and provide the ethical foundation for responsible site stewardship by every resident of the Sedona/Verde Valley area."
The Verde Valley Archaeology Center is located at 385 S. Main Street in Camp Verde.
To get involved in this program, go to the Verde Valley Archaeology Center's website at www.vvarchcenter.org or call (928) 567-0066.