Time travel in Eastern Pinal County
ORACLE, Ariz. – Walking side-by-side with Sarah Luchetta through the eastern region of Pinal County is a better anthropologic experience than eating popcorn in front of the History Channel’s latest excursion into the past.
Thanks to Central Arizona College’s Community Education program, Luchetta is bringing her experience and expertise to the Aravaipa region for a carefully navigated journey through local mountain time.
Prehistorical Oracle: Ball Courts, Ruins, Rock Art will meet for a trio of lectures followed by three field trips beginning Feb. 6 at Oracle State Park. The lectures will take place on Wednesday evenings Feb. 6 and 20, and March 5 from 6:30-8 p.m.
The field trips will occur on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Feb. 9 and 23, and March 8. The cost of the class is $75.
“Many people in the Oracle-Saddlebrooke-Oro Valley area are interested in archaeology, history and hiking,” Luchetta, who earned both her undergraduate and master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Arizona, said. “I thought a class like this would be attractive to people.”
The program also provides an opportunity for Luchetta to spread the word about protecting the natural heritage of the region. The idea for the Central Arizona College class was spurred following a talk she gave to guests at a local state park.
“The area in and around Oracle has a rich archaeological history that is being threatened by development,” she explained. “The idea is that the class would show people how interesting, important and unique the prehistory and heritage is in the area, and that it is important to protect and preserve both the natural and cultural history of the region.”
The class is a basic archeological overview of Oracle’s many prehistoric sites combining a lecture followed by a field trip to the location.
“I picked three large sites based on their accessibility and land status,” Luchetta said. “The classes will focus on the archaeology and prehistory of the region, the main sites in the area, why they are important, the main prehistoric groups who inhabited the region, what happened to them, and what was found at the sites.”
The first fieldtrip on Feb. 9 will be to the Black Mountains west of Oracle where the class will explore two Hohokam sites - the Suffering Wash site with its large ballcourt and the hilltop defensive site of Fortified Peak.
The second fieldtrip on Feb. 23 will feature a journey to the Romero Ruins at Catalina State Park, a prehistoric Hohokam site that houses a small ballcourt as well as a historic-period ranch house.
The third outing will be to a petroglyph site near the Catalina Mountains with its hundreds of pecked rock drawings of animals and geometrical designs on March 8.
This site, called the Baby Jesus Ridge Art Site, contains many abstract and anthropomorphic petroglyphs decorating the granite boulders in the area.
“All these sites were inhabited by the Hohokam and Salado groups who lived in the area here about a thousand years ago,” Luchetta said. “The idea is to teach this class this semester to see how people respond. If it is well-received, then I would teach another class in the future that is more hands-on with activities like flintknapping, ceramic analysis, and artifact identification.”
Luchetta is ideal to lead the program because of her expertise, education, and time spent performing research in the region.
“My master’s degree actually looked at migration and settlement patterns of prehistoric groups in the San Pedro Valley just north of Oracle,” she explained. “I am very familiar with the archaeology of the area. Since graduating, I have worked for various environmental firms in Tucson and at the Arizona State Museum doing archaeology.”
Her archaeology and anthropology roots run so deep in the region that Luchetta and her husband have started their own archaeological business conducting surveys and environmental compliance work prior to the granting of permits for land development. Luchetta also teaches anthropology classes at Pima College and taught an archaeology class at Central’s Signal Peak last year.
Members of the community who want to learn more about the class may contact Luchetta by phone at 520-896-2689 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To register for the course, please contact Priscilla Barton at Central Arizona College’s Aravaipa Campus at 520-357-2817 or toll free at 866-869-6507, x2817.