Archaeological Test Excavations for the Water Plant No. 1 Expansion, Historic Block 138, City of Tucson

Author(s): J. Homer Thiel; Danielle Desruisseaux

Year: 1993


Residents of modern cities are often surprised to learn that historical artifacts and architectural remains survive below ground. The excavations on lots 5 through 12 of historic Block 138 demonstrate that past Tucsonans discarded large quantities of garbage in the areas next to their homes. Hundreds of items were discovered during archaeological testing of the block. The City of Tucson plans to expand its Water Plant over the block, and it was necessary to determine whether significant cultural resources were present. Test excavations conducted at AZ BB:13:424 (ASM) by Desert Archaeology, Inc., uncovered 51 features dating from the occupation of the site.

The goals of testing were to locate, identify, and evaluate archaeological features; to obtain datable artifacts from selected features; and to perform preliminary documentary research on the history of the block. Currently, the city has not finalized construction plans for the water plant expansion; therefore, a program to mitigate selected features has not been extensively developed. During testing and later archival research, it became obvious that the site is eligible for nomination into the National Register of Historic Places under criteria B and D. Under criterion B, which seeks associations with persons important on a national, regional, or local level, the site would be eligible because it was the home of members of three different cultural groups. The Yaqui Indian Soto family emigrated from northern Mexico toward the end of the nineteenth century. The Ransom family was headed by an African-American who married a Mexican woman. The Mexican-American Torres family moved to the block in the 1930s. These people, along with other block residents, were not individually famous. However, as a group, they contributed to the growth and development of Tucson. Since these groups were poorly documented in newspapers and published histories, the study of the archaeological materials they left behind allows us to glimpse and understand their daily lives.

Chapter 1 introduces readers to an overview of Tucson history. Biographical data on site residents is supplied in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 discusses the 51 uncovered features, including building foundations, outhouse pits, wells, and large trash pits. Most date from 1890 to 1930. Preliminary analysis of the recovered artifacts, presented in Chapter 4, provides dates for many of the features and indicates that site residents ate off of expensive dishes, enjoying prepared foodstuffs and beverages manufactured in the eastern United States and even Europe. This was surprising given the low income of the site residents. Research questions to guide further work are provided in Chapter 5.

Cite this Record

Archaeological Test Excavations for the Water Plant No. 1 Expansion, Historic Block 138, City of Tucson, 12. J. Homer Thiel, Danielle Desruisseaux. 1993 ( tDAR id: 448456) ; doi:10.48512/XCV8448456

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -110.941; min lat: 32.207 ; max long: -110.914; max lat: 32.233 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Desert Archaeology, Inc.

Contributor(s): Catherine Gilman; Helga Wocherl; Charles Thompkins; Robert Heckman; Arnold Miguel; Jon Schumaker; John Mehren; Dan Arnet; Ray Torres; Robert Soto; Soto Olga; Jonathan Mabry; Raphael Soto, Sr.; Donna Breckenridge; Kara Myrick; Elizabeth Black; Ron Beckwith; Helga Teiwes; Lisa Eppley; Oslynn Benjamin; Lynn D. Baker; Barbara Bush

Prepared By(s): Center for Desert Archaeology

Submitted To(s): City of Tucson

Record Identifiers

City of Tucson Contract No.(s): 346-90

ASM Permit No.(s): 93-9

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Contact(s): Desert Archaeology, Inc.

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