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Archaeologists in Tucson studying rare pots

Archaeologists in Tucson studying rare pots

CREATED Jul 30, 2012

Web Producer: Taylor Avey

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Archaeologists in Tucson are trying to determine the age and history of reddish-brown pots that they say represent a rare and unusual find.

The pots that likely were used to store food and water were discovered earlier this year by U.S. Border Patrol agents in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The agents had been looking for signs of illegal immigrants hiding in the mountains.

Archaeologists at a conservation center in Tucson said the pots are unusual because they've been undisturbed for possibly hundreds of years and are intact.

"These particular pots were found in a very remote area," Connie Gibson, the monument's archaeologist and cultural-resources program manager, told the Arizona Republic. "They are areas we don't get to on a regular basis. It was a real stroke of luck."

Border agents found a large pot in February in a mountainous area of the monument, buried in the soil in a small depression. Three more clay vessels were discovered less than a month later, clustered in an alcove on the ancestral land of the Hohokam and Tohono O'odham people.

Archaeologists said they believe the pots are hundreds of years old but will need up to a year or more to make a determination on their age and origin. Archaeologists also can determine what was cooked or stored in the pots by conducting an analysis of residue, thereby revealing the diets of ancient people.

A member of the Tohono O'odham Nation conducted a ceremony at the monument before archaeologists removed the pots and transported them to the Western Archaeological and Conservation Center in Tucson, which is under the National Park Service.

The discovery might have prevented the artifacts from falling into looters' hands, said Sue Walter, chief of interpretation at the monument. The location of the find isn't being disclosed to prevent illegal taking. About 95 percent of the 330,688-acre monument is designated wilderness.

The monument is known for the multi-armed cactuses that resemble organ pipes, or giant hands stretching into the sky. It's also a popular smuggling corridor because of its remote location and desolate mountains.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

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