Archaeologists Uncover Treasures at Slide Fire Site

By ASTRID GALVAN | May 30, 2014

An arrowhead that could date back thousands of years and a potentially historic cabin are among the items found by a team working to preserve significant sites from the Slide Fire in northern Arizona.

The three-member team of archaeologists from Arizona was on the front lines with firefighters since the blaze began in Oak Creek Canyon on May 20.

Much of the canyon has been evacuated since the fire started near Slide Rock State Park.

The fire has burned 32 square miles so far, but containment has reached 45 percent.

Coconino County officials announced Wednesday night that the evacuation order for Oak Creek Canyon residents because of a wildfire in northern Arizona will be lifted at 1 p.m. Thursday and electricity is expected to be restored to all homes in the affected area by 4 p.m. Friday.

The team’s mission is to preserve archaeologically significant sites both known and unknown.

“We’re kind of on the ground with the crews and sometimes in front of them, trying to protect these places,” Coconino National Forest archaeologist Jeremy Haines said. “We want to ensure that we’re not inadvertently causing damage through the firefighting effort.”

It was during a search through a steep side canyon in an area known as East Pocket south of Flagstaff that a firefighter encountered what archaeologists had missed in the past – a 12-by-12-foot log cabin.

“We moved away the debris and sure enough there was enough of the corner of the cabin to identify exactly what it was. And during the brush-away we discovered what looks to be a fireplace,” Haines said.

Haines said the cabin is significant because it’s the first real evidence of Euro-American settlements in that remote area. The team took a piece of the log cabin and plans to send it to the University of Arizona so that it could be dated.

Haines said he also found an arrowhead that appears to be from the Archaic Period dating back thousands of years.

“You think about wildland fires and you think about mostly putting out the fire because of the trees or the wildlife. And we’re another value that’s at risk due to the fire,” he said.

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