How Pancho Villa and Emil Haury Established Highway Salvage Archaeology in Arizona

By Thompson, Raymond H. | Journal of the Southwest, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

How Pancho Villa and Emil Haury Established Highway Salvage Archaeology in Arizona


Thompson, Raymond H., Journal of the Southwest


The easiest and, therefore, the standard way to discuss the origins of highway salvage archaeology is to cite the Federal-Aid Highway and Highway Revenue Act of 1956 and the resulting Bureau of Public Roads Policy and Procedure Memorandum 20-7 and then to move on to other matters. It is certainly true that these documents constitute the legal basis on which the nation's highway salvage programs are built. However, limiting the discussion this way ignores the lengthy history of activities that led up to the passage of this basic legislation and the many difficulties of implementing it in each of the states. Moreover, it leaves out the efforts of the two individuals who paved the way for highway salvage archaeology in Arizona.

The first of these individuals is Doroteo Arango from Rio Grande in the state of Zacatecas in Mexico, who presented himself to the world as Francisco Villa. Identified both as a revolutionary hero and as a brutal bandit, Pancho Villa played a controversial role in the Mexican Revolution. When President Woodrow Wilson recognized Villa's rival, the Constitutionalist Venustiano Carranza, as President of Mexico, Villa began attacking and killing Americans. After Villa crossed the border to raid Columbus, New Mexico in 1916, Wilson responded by sending General John J. Pershing and the U.S. Army on a punitive expedition to capture Pancho Villa. Wilson hampered Pershing by ordering him not to use the Mexican railroads to transport troops and equipment.

Unable to capture Pancho Villa, Pershing left Mexico early in 1917, fully frustrated by the terrible condition of the roads, when there were any, on both sides of the border.

When General Pershing returned to Washington, he assigned the task of designing a national system of military highways to a young first lieutenant only recently graduated from West Point. When that young officer, Dwight D. Eisenhower, became the 34th President of the United States, he dusted off his early report on military highways and sent it to Congress, which created the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways in the Federal-Aid Highway and Highway Revenue Act of 1956 and authorized the use of federal funds for archaeological and paleontological salvage on federal highway projects.

Somewhat earlier in Arizona the second of these individuals, Emil W. Haury, had already begun campaigning for some kind of a highway salvage program. During his years of archaeological survey and excavation for the Gila Pueblo Archaeological Foundation in Globe, Arizona, he had had many opportunities to observe the damaging impact of highway construction on archaeological sites. When Haury became Director of the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1938, he presented to the Arizona Highway Department a plan to mitigate that impact, requesting that archaeological remains encountered during highway work be reported to the Arizona State Museum (Haury 1955: 10). The plan was accepted, but implementation was spotty at best and sites continued to be damaged or destroyed by highway work without being reported to the State Museum.

In January 1951 Haury met with Highway Department and Bureau of Public Roads personnel seeking their assistance. His complaints later that year about the destruction of a site in a materials pit near Marana led to renewed promises of Highway Department cooperation. A Highway Department employee, William E. Willey, who would later become the State Highway Engineer when the Highway Act of 1956 was passed, wrote Haury in December 1952, inquiring whether he would be interested in a site that would be impacted soon on State Route 77. Willey continued to report sites to Haury and soon the Highway Department began to encourage its District Engineers and its contractors to report finds to the Museum.

By 1954, however, the cooperation of the Highway Department, as well as that of other organizations, was creating a problem for Haury. …

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