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December 2006

During December 2006, intensive archaeological excavations continued in the Joint Courts Complex (JCC) project area. The focus of work in December was on the excavation of graves and other features already identified in the southern half of the project area, and on new test excavations in the project area’s northern half. The exploration of areas in several different parts of the project area has been an important goal for the first three months of fieldwork, because it will allow an estimate of the total number of graves present in the project area and the extent and complexity of other archaeological features.

Excavations continued in the portion of the former military cemetery that falls within the JCC project area, and in the larger civilian cemetery that occupied much of the rest of the project area. The extent of the former military cemetery was fairly well established by the end of December. As anticipated by the archival research, less than half of the military cemetery falls within the project area, and much of that portion was destroyed by the construction of the former Tucson Newspapers building in the 1940s. Nevertheless, by the end of December, 17 graves had been identified and excavated within the limits of the former military cemetery. No trace of the adobe wall that once enclosed the military cemetery has been found, but its approximate former location can be inferred from the placement of graves.

The limits of the larger civilian cemetery are not yet well established. Based on the archival research, the western and southern limits of the civilian cemetery corresponded closely with Stone Avenue and Alameda Street, respectively, but no clear evidence existed for its northern and eastern limits. The excavation of selected areas across the project area in December has suggested that the eastern limit of the civilian cemetery was no farther east than Grossetta Avenue, and that the northern limit was well north of Council Street, but our understanding of the extent of the civilian cemetery will undoubtedly be revised and refined as the fieldwork continues. By the end of December, 15 graves had been identified and excavated in the former civilian cemetery. Along with the 17 graves in the military cemetery, a total of 32 graves had been excavated in the project area by the end of December.

In addition to military and civilian graves, the excavations in December exposed a variety of post-cemetery archaeological features, including the remains of three early house foundations. Two of the foundations were found along the west side of Grossetta Avenue, just north of Council (formerly Miltenberg) Street. These two houses, corresponding to the original addresses of 52 Miltenberg and 78 Grossetta, were both in place by 1900, the year they first apppear on a Sanborn fire insurance map. Like the two foundations discovered in November along the north side of Alameda Street (34 and 48 East Alameda), these foundations represent two of the earliest houses built on the former cemetery after it was subdivided and sold by the city in 1890. Unlike the foundations along Alameda, both of these foundations were poorly preserved and badly damaged by later construction. Both foundations were of adobe laid on grade; a single wall line of two or three adobe courses was preserved at 78 Grossetta, and faint traces of a single adobe wall line were found at 52 Miltenberg. A third foundation was found on the south side of Council Street, at the original address of 55 Miltenberg. This foundation was of basalt cobbles, similar to the foundation at 34 Alameda, but badly disturbed by the later construction of a filling station nearby.

Not surprisingly, a number of the graves excavated to date in the project area have shown evidence of disturbance by residential and commercial construction after 1890. A common source of disturbance, documented in several graves, was the excavation of trenches for sewer lines. In parts of the project area, several individual graves have been disturbed to varying degrees by one or more sewer lines. Another significant disturbance is a large pit found near the filling station that stood until recently at 55 East Council Street. The pit once held the buried fuel tank for the station, and its original excavation undoubtedly disturbed or wholly destroyed an undetermined number of graves.