Archaeological Investigations at the Redtail Site, AA:12:149 (ASM), in the Northern Tucson Basin

Author(s): Mary Bernard-Shaw

Year: 1989


This report presents the results of archaeological investigations at the Redtail site. Field investigations were conducted by Desert Archaeology, Inc. (formerly the Institute for American Research) under the sponsorship of the American Continental Corporation (AMCOR) between January and May of 1987. Redtail (AZ AA:12:149 ASM) was identified as a multicomponent site that was occupied during the Pioneer and Colonial periods (A.D. 700-900). A total of 148 features were excavated, tested, and/or profiled at the site. This included 45 pithouses, 9 occupation surfaces, 15 cremation or burials, 42 extramural features, 36 intramural features, and a central plaza/cemetery feature.

Redtail was established in the Pioneer period, although there are indications that a late Archaic period use of the bajada may have included the site area. The central plaza feature was constructed during the Cañada del Oro phase, and the discrete placement of Early Colonial period burials within the plaza has been documented. Site organization was greatly influenced by the central plaza, and the traditional arrangement of courtyard groups was not found at Redtail. Rather a linear arrangement of house rows that partially enclosed the plaza feature was reconstructed for the Cañada del Oro phase occupation. The plaza displayed the remnants of several plastered surfaces, and many of the plaza burials were sealed under successive layers of plaster. There were no Rillito phase burials excavated within the plaza, and by the late Colonial period the mortuary practices appear to have changed.

Even though a comprehensive data recovery program was conducted at the site, the artifact assemblage from Redtail was relatively sparse. Despite this, there was a pronounced typological diversity of material remains. The data indicate that locally produced decorated ceramics included Estrella Red-on-brown, Snaketown Red-on-brown, Cañada del Oro Redon-brown, Rillito Red-on-brown, and redware ceramics. Compositional analyses suggest that these ceramic remains were manufactured within the Tucson basin, although probably not at the Redtail site. At the same time, the distribution of in-process turquoise beads, blanks, and tessera at the site revealed a pattern of on-site production. Colonial period turquoise manufacture changed over time, and there are indications that this behavior reduced through time.

Analyses of the cultural remains from Redtail found that much of the day-to-day activities probably occurred outside the site area. The low values for cultigens both in pollen and flotation samples suggest that primary processing behaviors may have taken place elsewhere. Interestingly, support for this argument was identified in the analysis of the chipped and ground stone assemblages where food processing implements such as manos and metates were relatively rare. The evidence from Redtail suggests that drier, perhaps more open conditions characterized the site locale. The openness of the terrain is mirrored in the increased percentage of jack rabbit remains in the faunal assemblage through time. These results argue for the prolonged devegetation of the local habitat, and, perhaps the growth of agricultural activities in the northern basin.

Cite this Record

Archaeological Investigations at the Redtail Site, AA:12:149 (ASM), in the Northern Tucson Basin, 8. Mary Bernard-Shaw. 1989 ( tDAR id: 448069) ; doi:10.48512/XCV8448069

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -111.857; min lat: 32.21 ; max long: -110.605; max lat: 32.905 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Desert Archaeology, Inc.

Contributor(s): Kurt Dongoske; Lisa G. Eppley; Suzanne K. Fish; William B. Gillespie; James Heidke; William D. Hohmann; James P. Holmlund; James P. Lombard; Charles Miksicek; Arthur W. Yokes; Henry D. Wallace; WLB Group; Geo-Map, Inc.

Principal Investigator(s): Bill Doelle

Project Director(s): Fred Huntington

Sponsor(s): American Continental Corporation (AMCOR)

Prepared By(s): Center for Desert Archaeology; Desert Archaeology, Inc.

Record Identifiers

Technical Report No.(s): 89-8

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Contact(s): Desert Archaeology, Inc.

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