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Archaeology Center's grant will protect historic sites

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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The Verde Valley Archaeology Center is continuing its mission to preserve and protect sites of historical importance throughout the region.

To that end, the center has recently received grant money to help protect archaeological sites from vandalism.

"Earlier this year, the destruction of a prehistoric dwelling in the Sedona Uptown area received significant coverage in the local press as well as on social media," according to an announcement from the center. "In 2013, a large prehistoric village in Cornville was vandalized by pothunters who dug up a large area apparently looking for artifacts. A large hilltop pueblo owned by the Archaeological Conservancy in Cornville was vandalized in 2012. Instances of graffiti and artifact collection have occurred repeatedly."

The grant funding totals $10,000 and was given by the Arizona Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization that donates to endeavors around the Grand Canyon State.

The money is going to be used for three separate projects.

The first goal is to work on recruiting as many as 100 site stewards to look after areas of historical significance.

Because of the risk of vandalism, the center often works to keep the locations of historic archaeological sites as vague as possible.

"Unfortunately one of the ways we have to protect sites is to keep them hidden," said Ken Zoll, the center's executive director.

The center is more than happy to show people around the sites as long as the visits are supervised, and Zoll said the people who sign up for such trips are less likely to be vandals in the first place.

Training for these volunteers is expected to begin early next year, Zoll said.

The second part of the grant program involves a public outreach campaign.

"We'll be working out the final details in the fall," Zoll said.

Zoll said he will be meeting with the State Historic Preservation Office to hammer out some of those details and will also be talking with the U.S. Forest Service about the possibility of signs at some of the historic sites.

Zoll said the efforts would also include a poster contest for local children.

It's local children that commit most of the vandalism at these sites, Zoll said, based on studies on the issue.

"We'll work with art teachers to help instill the message that we don't want graffitti on our heritage," Zoll said.

The effort will also include a number of public service announcements as well as the possibility of additional resources to monitor some sites electronically.

"It is not clear why certain people and groups purposefully damage archaeological sites, but many social, educational, and economic causes have been postulated such as ignorance and a lack of a stewardship ethic on the part of our youth," the center announced. "Accidents and inadvertent damages are usually due to a lack of understanding about the value of cultural resources, the importance of context and the fact that once disturbed, cultural resources cannot be restored to their full value."

In addition to organizing hiking expeditions to historic sites, the center works to keep many ancient artifacts here in the Verde Valley instead of being shipped to other sites and museums.

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Original Publication Date: August 26, 2015

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