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Springerville Presents: Explore the Home of the Ancients

Upcoming Events at Casa Malpais Archaeological Park

Owned and maintained by the Town of Springerville, the Casa Malpais Archaeological Site consists of various distinct features that most likely include varying time periods. The pueblo room block has received the focus of archaeological work, but other unique features, such as the Great Kiva, astronomical observatory, and solstice and equinox markers may suggest a position of trade or ceremonial importance. The presence of pit house structures on the site may indicate an earlier period occupation, from at least as early as 6,000 years ago.

The Mogollon people inhabited Casa Malpais in 1240-1350, for just about 100 years. The site was abandoned during the late periods (Pueblo 3 & 4) along with most of the Southwest population. Casa Malpais was not the name given by the ancients, but rather, by the Spanish who settled in this area in the 1800’s. Both the Hopi and Zuni consider this to be an ancestral home, and they each have their own names for this site.

Casa Malpais became a National Historic Landmark in 1964, as a result of archaeological studies by Ned Danson in the 1950s. This July, as we celebrate the 50+ years, of being a NHL, we will be opening the Casa site to self-guided tours for three days. We are asking those who wish to visit to come to the museum located in the Springerville Heritage Center for instructions to the site and for the interpretive trail guide. A short film about the site is available at the museum if you would like a little more background before your tour. There will also be some guided tours available, as well as volunteers on the site to help answer questions.

Since the site stabilization will be taking place at the same time, you will get the chance to watch first hand, archaeologists, field school students, and volunteers as they are working on the site. The open house dates are: July 27th, 28th, and 29th, from 9am-3pm. The tour is free during these dates. Good hiking shoes and water are a must!

About every ten years, the pueblo at the Casa Malpais needs to be re-mudded and stabilized. It may seem odd to stabilize a “ruin,” but this is something the ancient people worked on continually. Scheduled for July 25th-29th, we are inviting the public to participate in this project. Archaeology Southwest (501(C)3 Tucson) will provided trained personnel who will in turn train local volunteers. We call this a “Challenge experience”.  The challenges are to hike to the site to participate, and then, working with clay and mud in possible hot and dirty conditions! As a bonus, participants can take their place in history, as their names are recorded in the official documentation records as members of this specific archaeological field project. All ages welcome, no experience necessary!  For more information, please call 928-333-5375.

Casa Malpais museum is fortunate to have artifacts from the site on display. There are trade items that had been brought to this area, such as turquoise, sea shells, even macaw feathers. Families in the area may have artifacts of their own, or even collections that have been in the family from a time when hunting of artifacts was an accepted practice. Archaeologists are interested in these artifacts, and having the opportunity to see these collections may help them answer some questions and fill in blanks for this time period.

On Saturday, July 30th, the Casa will be hosting an “Archaeology Road Show” event – similar to Antiques Road Show in that we invite the public to bring in their artifacts or collections for identification, documentation and discussion. No monetary value will be assigned. You may be able to discover who made an item, how it was made, or where it originated. We have teamed up with Dr. Doug Gann of Archaeology Southwest, located in Tucson, who will attempt to gain additional knowledge about past cultures of our White Mountains through these artifacts. An ancient stone tool expert and pottery expert will also be here that day. The Road Show event will be open 10am-3pm Saturday July 30th at the Springerville Heritage Center.  This event is free and open to the public. The Arizona Humanities Council has made funding for this event possible.

Pottery from the site shows interrelations between cultures. The variety of types of pottery may indicate trade or exchange of ideas from other places. This September, the Town of Springerville and Casa Malpais are proud to be the sponsors of a three day event called the Southwest Kiln Conference. This event has been held informally around the southwest since 2003. Archaeologists, potters, and interested individuals are invited to attend the various speaker events, and pottery demonstrations that will take place at the Apache County Rodeo Grounds near Springerville on September 16th, 17th, and 18th. The purpose of the conference is to attempt to recreate pottery the way the ancients did. Speakers will talk about methods the ancients may have used to make clay, organic paint, and paint brushes. Individuals may bring an unfired piece to be placed in an outdoor kiln, with results discussed as the kilns are opened up. The kilns will be opened Sunday morning after a long cool down process. The event is free and open to the public all three days, September 16th-18th. Additionally, for a small registration fee, there will be a painting workshop and a pottery making workshop on Friday evening. More information can be found at, or on the  website or facebook page. Pre-registration is now available.

The Casa Malpais museum is located at the Springerville Heritage Center and is just one of several museums and exhibits in the Heritage Center. This is where the artifacts collected from the site during the excavation held 1991-1997 are housed. While tours of the site are available Tuesday-Saturday, the Heritage Center is open every day but Sunday, and its hours are 8am – 4pm. There is no charge to visit the museums and exhibits. We hope to see you soon.

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