Norton Allen's Excavations in the San Pedro and Dripping Spring Valleys of Southeastern Arizona

By Lyons, Patrick D. | Journal of the Southwest, Summer-Autumn 2010 | Go to article overview

Norton Allen's Excavations in the San Pedro and Dripping Spring Valleys of Southeastern Arizona


Lyons, Patrick D., Journal of the Southwest


Although the majority of the Norton Allen Collection consists of materials from the Gila Bend area, a small group of objects was recovered from sites in southeastern Arizona. In this article, I present an overview of these artifacts and discuss their significance. I begin by describing the process by which Norton's site names were matched with those used by other researchers and the designations currently employed by the Arizona State Museum (ASM). Next, I report on the artifacts recovered. This collection, dominated by pottery, has the potential to expand our knowledge of migration by Kayenta groups into southern Arizona as well as the rise and demise of the Salado phenomenon. Furthermore, the collection includes a sample from a mostly destroyed site (affording researchers a better understanding of ancient settlement in the Dripping Spring Valley), it improves knowledge of locally produced pottery types, and it fleshes out distributional patterns associated with late, intrusive pottery types from the Hopi Mesas, the Zuni area, and Chihuahua.

Most items in the Allen Collection recovered from sites in the vicinity of Gila Bend are associated with detailed contextual information, allowing researchers to use them in a wide variety of ways (e.g., Doyel 2008; Wasley and Johnson 1965). Unfortunately, the portion of the collection from southeastern Arizona--the majority of which was assembled relatively early in Allen's avocational archaeological career--is spottier in terms of documentation. In some cases, different sources, including notes written on containers and the backs of photographs, provide contradictory information regarding the provenience of a given object. Nonetheless, most objects can be definitively associated with a particular site.

We don't know how the Allens (Ernest, Lenna, and Norton) came to camp in the San Pedro Valley; there are no clues in Norton's mother's diary. This 1939 trip had started with camping in Agua Caliente, and then at Gila Bend for the first time (see Schwartzlose's article in this issue). It almost seems to have been a reconnaissance of Arizona museums and archaeology. From Gila Bend they drove to Phoenix to visit the Arizona Museum (later known as the Phoenix Museum of History) and the Heard Museum, and then on to Globe to visit the Gila Pueblo Archaeological Foundation. Lenna's diary then matter-of-factly records that they left Superior and arrived at "El Rancho Lago" on the afternoon of April 20. Conceivably the director of Gila Pueblo, Harold Gladwin, may have given them directions and contacts, for they immediately set up camp, and the very next morning began a pattern that would last for seven weeks. In the mornings Ernest would go out digging. Sometimes Norton would accompany him, but more often Norton was drafting maps. Of the forty-nine days the Aliens were camped at Rancho Lago, at least twenty-one days were spent digging at sites in the San Pedro Valley and the Dripping Spring Valley just to the north, according to Lenna's diary (figure 1). Norton spent at least twelve days drafting, and Norton and Ernest spent at least nine days repairing pots that either they or other people who were digging had found. At least one day Ernest and a Mr. Murphy went out on horseback, prospecting (figure 2). On June 7, the Aliens packed up and drove to Tucson, to camp on the property of new friends they had met at Rancho Lago. Over the course of the next week, Norton went to the Arizona Historical Society, and to the Arizona State Museum on the University of Arizona campus, where he met Dr. Emil W. Haury, whose reports about Gila Pueblo's excavations at Snaketown Norton had already absorbed. That meeting was an important one, leading Norton and Dr. Haury to become good friends, and Norton to focus on Hohokam archaeology in the Gila Bend area for the rest of his life. By June 21, the Aliens were back home in La Mesa. Norton never dug again in the San Pedro that we know of, but he did make other friends there over the years, including another skilled avocational archaeologist, Alice Carpenter (see Schwartzlosc's article). …

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