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January 2008

The end of the first month of 2008 brought the Joint Courts Archaeological Project to within six weeks of the projected end of fieldwork. The focus of our efforts for January continued to be the excavation of previously discovered graves in the former National Cemetery and the exploration of a variety of post-cemetery features. By the end of the month, the total number of discovered graves had reached 1,085, and the total number of excavated burials had reached 947. The number of discovered graves still awaiting excavation was 60. (The evident disparity in the numbers of graves and burials derives from occasional occurrences of previously exhumed graves lacking burials.) All of the discovered but unexplored graves are located under the portion of Council Street east of the area of unusually high grave density that accounted for so much of our efforts during the last two months of 2007.

During January, we finished excavation of the graves discovered in late 2007 in the alley immediately east of the Chicanos Por La Causa building (200 North Stone Avenue). All of these graves fell within the military portion of the former cemetery and represent the fourth row of soldier burials known from a list of graves prepared by an army quartermaster in 1881. Like almost all of the graves in the first three rows (discovered in the early months of the project), these graves were exhumed in 1884 by a government contractor, who then reburied the remains at Fort Lowell on the Rillito. In the early 1960s, most of the graves in the fourth row were badly damaged during excavation for the basement of the building that is now Chicanos Por La Causa. Despite the prior exhumation and the damage by construction, the discovery and excavation of these graves has provided another valuable link between the limited historical documentation we have on the military cemetery and the results of our fieldwork.

As noted in our report for December 2007, we recently discovered a probable remnant of the adobe wall that once surrounded the military cemetery. We were able to explore the discovery somewhat further during January. The remnant consists of a roughly east-west alignment of crumbling adobe, located in nearly the exact spot where we suspected that the south wall of the military cemetery once stood, based on our study of the historical record and on where we had found previously exhumed burials. Our initial interpretation was that the remnant adobe was a thin layer of adobe mortar laid on the natural ground surface in preparation for a first course of adobe blocks, and we have no reason to change that interpretation. Because of the ephemeral nature of the remnant, it is difficult to be sure that the alignment we were able to map represents the precise original alignment of the wall (the orientation of graves in the military cemetery suggests that the wall around it was less closely aligned to a true east-west axis), but we are confident that this is in fact a remnant of the wall. Its fortuitous location under a concrete sidewalk first installed in the 1920s helped preserve the remnant until today.

Outside the former cemetery, we began exploring the small triangular parcel at the northeast corner of the intersection of Council Street and Grossetta Avenue. Unlike every other part of the project area, this parcel never saw residential construction. The first building to stand there was the Troy Laundry, which opened in 1902. This business was owned by Tucson notables Mose and Harry Drachman (and another partner), but it was short-lived: by 1904, the laundry had been destroyed in a fire. Shortly afterward, the Henry Till Company, a bottling works, opened on the same site, but that enterprise was also short-lived: by 1919, the City Laundry had taken over the new building, and this second laundry business lasted into the 1960s. Our excavation of the parcel in January uncovered a variety of foundation fragments and other architectural remnants of the City Laundry, as well as possible remnants of the earlier building destroyed by fire. As we had anticipated, no graves or other features associated with the cemetery have been found, lending further support to our hypothesis that the cemetery never extended east of Grossetta Avenue.

By the end of January, we had begun removing the asphalt from Grossetta Avenue and the small portion of Council Street just to its east. As February begins, we will explore the area under these streets, which represents the very last unexplored portion of the project area. If our interpretation of historical sources and the results of our fieldwork is reliable, we will find nothing but utility trenches and other minor noncemetery features in this area.

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