Stylized snippet of an oil paining of San Agustin Jul 19

The History of the San Agustín Festival in Tucson

Homer Thiel discusses a long-celebrated late summer festival in Tucson, and how the tradition of the San Agustín Festival helped us make sense of a dense archaeological deposit near the Historic Pima County Courthouse in downtown Tucson. During the Territorial Period (1856-1912), residents of Tucson celebrated three festivals. The San…

Line drawing of a bowl of ice cream superimposed on a historic photograph of downtown Tucson Jun 29

The First Ice Cream in Tucson

Historical archaeologist Homer Thiel comes to the rescue with tales of cold, sweet historical relief from the heat. Tucson and much of the rest of the Southwestern United States are undergoing record-breaking heat. In was hot in the past too, especially in early Territorial period (1856-1912) Tucson. One way to…

Oct 22

E. J. Smith: Tucson’s First Professional Undertaker

During the Presidio (1775-1856) and early Territorial (1856-early 1900s) periods, family members and friends cared for the bodies of deceased people in Tucson. Local carpenters nailed together coffins, sometimes decorating them with paint and fabric. Religious leaders or friends conducted the funeral, and then the bodies were buried in the…

Aug 12

Remembering Quintus Monier and Brickyard Workers

The upcoming opening of a new building prompts Desert Archaeology project director Mike Diehl to revisit an early Tucson architect, his brickyard, and the workers who made the bricks that built city landmarks. In Autumn 2020, the Monier Building, a mixed-use 122 unit residential and 13,000 square foot commercial space,…

Aug 3

Black, Red, and Green: Abalone Shell Trade in the Ancient Southwest

Desert Archaeology project director Erina Gruner’s recent doctoral dissertation explored the exchange of ritual paraphernalia and exotic trade goods during the Chacoan and post-Chacoan periods (AD 875–1300) in the San Juan Basin, Here, she discusses the exchange of abalone shell by groups living in Arizona and New Mexico a thousand years…

Jun 3

Shining a Light on Optically Stimulated Luminescence

Desert Archaeology crew chief Caleb E. Ferbrache explains how electrons trapped in rock can be used to date archaeological deposits--and why, unlike the more familiar carbon dating, OSL allows dating in the absence of preserved organic material. Most people know that archaeologists regularly use carbon-14 (also called radiocarbon) to date…

May 27

The Beginning of Hohokam Sand Temper Provenance Studies

This week’s blog is written by James Heidke, Desert Archaeology’s senior ceramic analyst. Douglas Craig, an outstanding Southwestern US archaeologist and former Desert Archaeology colleague, passed in mid-May 2020. Most people who know Doug Craig’s professional reputation will think of him as a project director, and, indeed, I worked with…

May 8

Zuni Pottery from the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson

Desert Archaeology historical archaeologist Homer Thiel and ceramic analyst Jim Heidke discuss the ceramics used by 18th-century residents of the Presidio, including some surprising souvenirs brought home by Spanish soldiers from a long-distance military expedition.  The Presidio San Agustín del Tucson was a Spanish and Mexican period (AD 1775-1856) fortress…

1918 Spanish flu ward Apr 8

We Have Been Here Before: A History of Epidemics in Southern Arizona

Historical archaeologist Homer Thiel provided information for a newspaper article on the 1918 Spanish flu, published by the Arizona Daily Star on April 6, 2020. This blog entry is an expanded presentation of Homer's research on the history of epidemics in the Tucson area. The appearance of the COVID-19 virus…