The Archaeology Wing provides dramatic displays that explore the complexities of the ancient cultures that inhabited the area from approximately the year zero to the present.
As you enter, prehistoric artifacts mix with recent history. Learn about the successful attempt by the small community of Cave Creek to fight a massive development that would have more than doubled the population and adversely affected the town’s identity. Besides being a beautiful area worth preserving, Spur Cross Conservation Area has a rich archaeological record, reflecting the value that people have placed on the land for millennia.
The acrylic case at the entry contains pottery, projectile points, stone tools and other artifacts from Spur Cross, on loan from Arizona State University. Year-round water from the creek made the area an attractive site for prehistoric people.
Look to your right and linger by the “lava lamp.” This seemingly incongruous contemporary element serves to illustrate the flow of ancient cultures throughout the Southwest and challenges you to explore the “why” of migration.
Let your eyes sweep across the Museum’s extraordinary collection of prehistoric pottery, jewelry, tools, sandals and other items that offer clues to cultures that mastered desert living. Baskets, fragile in the desert climate, were both beautiful and functional. Exhibit items reflect art and cultures from ancient people throughout the Southwest. These artifacts inspire reflection on the lives of these desert dwellers. Learn how archaeologists have interpreted the lives of the ancients on the time-line panels. Enjoy the “artifact of the month” exhibit case, a changing display that highlights a different archaeological treasure each month.
Designs of prehistoric “homes” varied, based on the time frame, location and available materials. “Pit houses” were a common design in the desert flats. A depression of about 18 inches was dug and wall supports placed around it. Unlike modern Arizonans who rely on air conditioning, the Hohokam recognized that cooling could be found at depth. A model of a Hohokam pithouse is part of the east wall display as is a model of a Salado two story dwelling. A masonry Hohokam room, representing the Sears Kay Ruin has been reproduced on the south wall. A three tiered case on the east wall contains the elements of how prehistoric pottery was created.
Five locally discovered archaeological sites reveal the abundance of archaeological material in the area. Four of these were excavated by members of the Desert Foothills Chapter of the Arizona Archaeological Society. Artifacts from an additional local site, the Blue Wash Ruin, are on loan from Pueblo Grande Museum and in an exhibit case on the west wall.
The west wall features two living cultures, the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and the Xalychidom Piipaash (Maricopa), who comprise the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Commmunity. The exhibit consists of an introductory panel, a time line, and sections devoted to traditional structures (including models), food processing & preparation, and clothing. The display was done in collaboration with the staff of the Huhugam Ki Museum located at the Salt River Indian Community.