This past year has been a tremendous success. We, with the support of our members and donors, have preserved more than 19 sites from damage and destruction so far this year – sites that otherwise might have been dug up by looters, razed for development, or simply damaged by neglect.
I’m proud of what we’ve achieved, and I want to express my deep appreciation for those who made our success possible. We simply couldn’t have accomplished so much without such tremendous support.
Since 1980, we’ve permanently protected over 480 sites in 45 states. We’ve established long term relationships with archaeologists, tribal leaders, and landowners. And in 1997, we launched our magazine, American Archaeology, which not only lets you know what we’re doing but also presents the research breakthroughs, persistent puzzles, and unique personalities making news in the field of archaeology.
And that’s why I’m writing this today. Even though we’ve achieved so much, there is still a lot of work to be done. Today, we face many more challenges than we did 34 years ago. Development continues to grow, demand for artifacts on the black market increases every year with the rise of internet sales, and environmental threats continue to endanger sites that aren’t properly stabilized.
That’s why I’m asking you to make a special year-end contribution to our General Fund. Your tax-deductible gift of $25, $50, $100 or more will help provide us with the resources to identify, negotiate and acquire sites throughout the country, a lot more goes into purchasing a site than just the price of the land.
There are a number of steps that the Conservancy takes in order to turn an unprotected archaeological site into a safe and permanent preserve.
First, we identify the most significant sites that need our help.
We talk to every state’s historic preservation office to find out which archaeological sites they think are the most important and the most threatened. We also contact local archaeologists and university researchers to get their opinions. And often, people call us if they discover artifacts or ruins on their property.
Then we spend time visiting each site and developing a plan for how to best acquire and preserve it. This process often takes months and requires extensive staff time and travel.
Second, we negotiate with the landowner.
This, too, can take months or even years. Our regional directors and field representatives must travel to meet with the property owners and work out terms that are beneficial for both the owner and the Conservancy. This process often takes time.
In some cases, land that contains an important site is owned by several different people, making negotiations to acquire the site even more drawn out. There are a number of projects that we have been working on since the Conservancy was founded in 1980. We’ll keep working on these sites until they are permanently preserved.
Finally, we manage our preserves.
Our regional directors and field representatives regularly monitor and maintain each site, ensuring they remain safeguarded from looting, vandalism, erosion and weather. We also train and keep in close contact with volunteers who patrol our preserves and let us know of any problems.
Each of these steps is a critical part of a site’s preservation.
In order to carry out all the necessary work before and after we acquire a site, we rely on our General Fund. That’s why YOUR support is so critical.
Contributions throughout the year help us pay the purchase price to buy endangered sites. But it is YOUR year-end gift for the General Fund that enables us to complete the essential groundwork to locate sites and manage them as permanent archaeological preserves.
This year, the General Fund was instrumental in the preservation of many invaluable sites, including:
- The Kin-4 site is a 1.33-acre prehistoric habitation mound and burial area located in the San Joaquin Valley in California. The site was initially recorded in 1939 by Hewes and Massey who noted obsidian and chert fragments, an abalone pendant, and fragments of human remains. In 2012, more human remains were found during the installment of an almond and pistachio orchard. The planting operation was halted and an intensive surface survey was conducted that found obsidian and chert flakes, several biface fragments, an olivella shell bead, fire affected rock, and a bowl mortar fragment. Although the mound has been subjected to decades of agricultural activities that have altered the size and height of the mound, it is likely that significant intact deposits are still present within the mound area. Prior to the emigration of white settlers, the San Joaquin Valley supported a large indigenous population and a high density of prehistoric settlements in the area. Unfortunately, many of these archaeological resources have been decimated from a century or more of agricultural activities and rapid residential development. The number of habitation mound sites left with some portion of intact deposits are relatively rare, making the preservation of Kin-4 vital to our understanding of the prehistory of the area.
- The Junction Group earthworks, one of the Hopewell Culture’s most enigmatic earthworks, is a complex of at least eight earthen enclosures that sprawls across about 20 acres of farmland just outside the city limits of Chillicothe, Ohio. The approximately 2,000 year old earthwork complex has been known to archaeologists since the pioneering work of Ephraim Squier and Edwin Davis in 1848 and has seen intermittent archaeological study ever since. Three weeks prior to the event, the Conservancy learned the farm containing the Junction Group earthworks would be sold at public auction. The Conservancy partnered with other conservation organizations to successfully purchase the site and the surrounding woodlands. The Conservancy and its partners plans to convert the field into a prairie and continue the geophysical survey to determine what other cultural resources might lie beneath the surface.
- The Bird Hammock site, located near Tallahassee in northwest Florida, is a multi-component site consisting of two burial mounds and two circular or ring-shaped middens consisting primarily of plant and animal food refuse. The site’s primary occupations were the peoples of the Swift Creek (ca A.D. 1-700) and Weeden Island (ca A.D. 700-1200) cultures. These cultures inhabited parts of Florida, Alabama and Georgia, and are known for their elaborate ceremonial complexes, mound burials, permanent settlements, extensive trade networks, and sociopolitical complexity. Research at the Bird Hammock site may help archaeologists understand the transition from the Swift Creek to the Weeden Island cultures in Florida.
These are just a few of the sites the Conservancy preserved in 2014 with resources from the General Fund. Next year, we hope to save even more.
In the Northeast, we continue our efforts to preserve sites of Native cultures. This region has a rich heritage of occupation, including the various tribes of the Iroquois, Algonquin, and Ritwan language groups.
In the Southeast, we’ve stepped up our efforts to save mound sites threatened by looters and modern agricultural practices.
In the Midwest, we’re aggressively pursuing sites built by the mysterious moundbuilders. Because urban sprawl is an increasing problem here, we spend a lot of time negotiating with developers.
In the Southwest, we continue our 34 years of acquiring important Anasazi, Hohokam, Caddo and other sites.
In the West, while most of the coast is already developed, we are hard at work on the many sites that remain in the interior regions.
Without YOUR support and the support of our members for the General Fund, we could never hope to save sites like these. It’s your generosity that keeps our cultural legacy alive.
I know that the Conservancy is just one of many organizations asking for your help. That’s why I hope that as you consider your year-end giving, you’ll feel that the preservation of this great nation’s past is one effort that merits your support.
With my best regards and wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year.
Mark Michel, TAC President