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Summer 1998

Archaeology in Tucson Newsletter

Page 3

were mostly historic Native American ceramics, although one musket ball was recovered. No Territorial period artifacts were found, suggesting an early date for its construction.

Toward the back of the trench, past an area disturbed in the 1960s, we found a Presidio period trash-filled pit. The pit contained many layers of white ash interspersed with layers of brown sand and bits of charcoal. The base of the pit was irregular, suggesting it may represent a borrow pit, where dirt was dug out to make adobe bricks or plaster. We only excavated a small portion of this pit; however, the recovered artifacts indicate that it was created during the Presidio period, from the 1770s to perhaps as late as the 1850s. Preliminary analysis of the animal bone recovered reveals that cattle, sheep or goat, and chicken bones are present. All of the butchered bones had been chopped apart by axes or cleavers. We found a large quantity of historic Native American ceramics, many from plain ware bowls. About a dozen Mexican majolica sherds were also present. Flotation samples will be examined for charred plant remains that will allow us to better reconstruct the diet of Presidio residents. The discovery of the pit was exciting because only a few Presidio era features with large artifact samples have been excavated.

It is probable that this structure is depicted on the 1862 Fergusson map.

What was the structure used for? Artifacts found inside the structure include a pair of manos, one used for food processing and the other reused as a hammerstone; a lap-sized netherstone or anvil used as a working surface for pounding something hard and small; and a three-quarter grooved axe modified for use as a mallet. The netherstone or anvil is especially interesting because there is some evidence that metal items were pounded on it, including a small smudge of copper. We also found some brass scrap metal and pieces of slag. These items are of interest because author Richard Willey, former director of the Flandrau Planetarium, has suggested that the blacksmith shop for the Presidio was located close to where we excavated. This shop was well known for its use of a large meteorite as an anvil (see story on page 5). The items we found may indicate that the brown adobe brick structure was part of or close to the blacksmith complex.

Associated with this structure is a set of postholes in the sediments that overlay the Presidio-period trash-filled pit. These postholes were all about 6 to 7 inches in diameter and may represent a porch area or a ramada built up outside the east side of the structure.

The Presidio Blacksmith Shop?

The red adobe brick wall was eventually demolished, knocked down with many of the broken adobe bricks lying in place. Over the top of the wall fall, another east-west wall, this time made from brown adobe bricks, was built against the north-south wall. The brown bricks were probably 19 inches long and 11 inches wide, but later disturbance has made it impossible to determine their actual size. The brown wall and the north-south wall formed the northwest corner of a structure.

Lastly, a pile of large rocks was found along the north side of the brown adobe brick wall. The 1862 map indicates that a small gateway was present at this point for the Calle de la Plaza, which later became known as Ott Street. Why would a large pile of rocks be here? Historian Tom Peterson, of the Arizona Historical Society, has indicated that rocks were often present in street areas, sometimes used to protect the sides of adobe structures from traffic. This seems likely, as several of the rocks were set in slots so that they were upright.

The curved rock wall of the Orndorff Hotel is visible in this pre-1935 841.360).

photograph (courtesy of Arizona Historical Society. Tucson. photo

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