Last weekend was the first chance most people in the Tucson community have had to tour the old Desert Lab buildings. But it’s also been a chance to learn first-hand about the scientific work that has been going on here for over a century, explained by the people who are still doing it. You can pick their brilliant brains and ask them questions.
Not only can you see and touch snakes and a gila monster in the Herpetology Lab, you can listen to the principle scientists who work with them, talk about their research questions and what they are finding out. Try to track these people down on campus and get a few minutes of their time to ask question. You’ll see what I mean. To rest your mind after all this brain activity, there will be live music.
And there is a second chance this weekend when it all happens again. Saturday and Sunday, January 28 and 29, 10-5 pm. Walk up to the Desert Lab buildings half way up Tumamoc Hill.
You might also touch a thousand year old stone tool. It’s not often anyone gets a chance to touch pot sherds and stone tools dug up by Archaeologists Paul and Suzie Fish on the ancient Tumamoc summit villages, and ask them questions. You’d be lucky to be able to see these artifacts in the Arizona State Museum, but here you get to also touch them.
In particular, I was thrilled to hold an obsidian spear point found buried under the old “community center” foundation. They don’t know what to call it, but it is the largest circular foundation on the hill and is thought to be a place where gatherings were held, possibly something like a kiva. The road to service teh towers was built right through the center of this ruined site. This spear point, they explained, was too delicate to be used for actual hunting, therefore they supposed that it was a ritual object. In addition, one can feel the area near the point that has been rubbed smooth by countless ancient fingers. It’s a mystery and you too can rub the smooth point.
No one will ever know for sure, but there is a lot of evidence pointing towards the long-term use of Tumamoc as a ceremonial site. As Paul and Suzie explained, among the knows facts are: Tumamoc was the only village on a hill in the region at the time when it was inhabited. It appears that some sort of elite class of society lived up there. Pottery sherds found on the hill were all made in other places, not the usual findings in a Hohokam village. A shaman’s cache of turquoise and crystal stones was found buried, as if in a shrine, on A-mountain, the sister peak. Similar shaman’s objects were found in the village on Tumamoc. There is a broad ancient trail going up the mountain, approximately following the route of the modern paved road on the north side with hieroglyphs facing the trail.
It appears to have at least been a sort of upper class “foothills” sort of lifestyle up there. People appeared to be bringing food and pottery to it’s inhabitants. There are several calendar stones on top of the hill, some petroglyphs that are pieced by a sun dagger at summer solstice dawn.