SANTA CRUZ DEL PITAITUTGAM (Di Peso's Santa Cruz de Gaybanipitea)
THE MATERIAL ON THIS PAGE IS COPYRIGHTED AND SHOULD BE APPROPRIATELY CITED (C) 2007-2008, Deni Seymour
Work continues on Santa Cruz del Pitaitutgam in 2009. This is the site that Charles Di Peso excavated in the 1950s with the Amerind Foundation. He incorrectly
refered to this site as Santa Cruz de Gaybanipitea, but since then a large Sobaipuri site of the correct size and placement has been identified in the correct location
as theSanta Cruz de Gaybanipitea shown on Kino's maps. Di Peso's site is likely Pitaitutgam, another site shown on the earliest of Kino's maps.
This was the only Sobaipuri site Di Peso dug of all those he investigated. Although the thought he had several other Sobaipuri sites those have all been efffectively
discounted as belonging to this culture group and time period.
Pitaitutgam is interesting for several reasons. Chronometric dates have been produced by two different techniques (C14 and luminescence) showing several
occupations, from the 1500s to the 1800s. The early dates suggest that this may have been one of the villages noted by Marcos de Niza along the Rio Nexpa when he
ventured north in 1539. Other sites on both the Santa Cruz and San Pedro rivers have produced similarly early dates indicating that this is not an anomaly.
There is also an interesting site structure that is similar to that described at Gaybanipitea, and at several sites on the Santa Cruz River north of Nogales. At
Pitaitutgam the structures are paired, and aligned in rows, and the rows seem to be paired. Two to three of these dual rows are present. One suggestion for this is
that as the population grew additional rows were added further from the terrace edge. Another possilbity is that as the first row was abandoned it was replaced by
new houses further from the terrace--this process seems apparent at other sites along the San Pedro. If I am right that the population of this settlement moved en
masse to Gaybanipitea to the south then it is reasonable to infer that the multiple parallel rows represent gradual population expanion to the point where the social
group became too sizeable for this location. By excavating some of these houses in different rows and running chronometric samples it should be possible to see if
there is an increasingly late sequence to the occupation. This same approach will allow us to determine whether the houses in the southeast portion of the site are
contemporaneous or if they are earlier. Another measure will be to discern if structures fell from use at different intervals. When this occurs rocks are often robbled
from earlier structures to be used in new houses. Evidence of this process is apparent at sites on the Santa Cruz. At Pitaitutgam many of the structures are positioned
at right angles to other structures, suggesting an earlier or later occupation that was unconnected to the main occupation.
Di Peso excavated structures and a single roasting pit. Additional structures and roasting pits are present. There are many of them and also another large roasting pit
similar to the mescal pit Di Peso excavated. There are also additional structures that he did not notice because they were not exposed on the surface as a result of
erosion. These newly mapped structures are either partially exposed or they are completely buried and were discovered by extrapolating where additional houses
should be based upon our understanding of site structure.
There are also extramural work areas with "hearths," hearth artifacts such as groundstone, and discard piles that define the outter perimeter of these work areas, as
at sites on the Santa Cruz River. These extramural work areas tend to contain most of the artifacts and are predictably designed so excavation of some of these
areas will add information about the Sobaipuri household at Pitaitutgam. Moreover, few of the artifacts from Di Peso's excavations have been curated so excavation
of these areas will provide sherds and flaked stone and other items that will be of value for further defining the nature of the Sobaipuri material culture assemblage
and changes through time. Dating material is expected in these extramural work areas also.
The adobe-walled structure was re-exposed in 2007 so that a plan drawing could be made (none could be found at the Amerind) and to obtain a better
understanding of the way the structure was built. A goal was also to obtain better dating material so that the construction or termination date for the feature could be
determined. When Di Peso dug this site C14 dating was in its infancy. In fact, charcoal samples from other sites at the Amerind have notes that say they were
collected in the dark of night or not exposed to light. It was not known at the time what factors might effect the accuracy of the dates so Di Peso took all precautions.
Di Peso did not dig all the features present. Many more houses are on this site than previously recorded. The images below show two
superimposed structures, neither of which was previously known. These were discovered when using the recently devised Sobaipuri site
structure model to predict where additional structures should be located. Upon excavation of the first 2x2 meter unit the wall to the
southernmost structure was exposed.
There are also dozens of thermal features including roasting pits. Di
Peso had only found one, and recent mapping of the site by the
Center for Desert Archaeology also failed to identify any of these
20-plus roasting pits. When Di Peso recorded the site many of these
features had not been exposed from erosion. They are exposed
now, however, and they are clearly visible. The one shown in the
accompanying image is dark with burned, charcoal-rich fill and
fire-cracked rocks are visible on the surface and partially buried.
This is about the size of the one Di Peso excavated and referred to
as the "mescal pit."
The Center for Desert Archaeology (including Jim Vint, TJ Ferguson, and Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh) also have not kept up with the recent literature (from even 20 years ago)
and still adhere to outdated and unfounded notions about this site. They continue to refer to this site as Gaybanipitea when the only reason this site was ever referenced as
such is because Di Peso made an error that has since been corrected. Di Peso's sloppy documentary research has been adopted by these individuals, even though the issue of
this site's identification has been questioned in the past. If Di Peso had not called this site Gaybanipitea, no one since then would have thought to call it that because this name
is in direct conflict with the documentary record. Had these more recent archaeologists conducted more in-depth and thorough research they would not have continued Di
Peso's error, nor would they continue to irresponsibly convey misinformation to the public and to the descendants of the Sobaipuri.
The documentary record is the only reason we know what to call these Sobaipuri sites. The documentary record provides names that can be applied to known archaeological
sites. When Di Peso did his work he was shown two sites and assumed these were the only ones in the area. He probably thought this because at the time the Kino maps were
thought to show only two Sobaipuri sites. Since then we know that more than two sites have been referenced in the journals and on maps. Moreover, archaeological survey
has revealed 30 Sobaipuri sites along this portion of the river so there are many more to choose from. Careful and thoughtful analysis must be completed rather than superficial
reference to outdated information.
In reality, there is an archaeological site in the appropriate location that matches all the topographic and descriptive criteria presented by Kino for Santa Cruz de
Gaybanipitea. The site Di Peso dug does not match the record for Gaybanipitea, it does, however, match the documentary record for Santa Cruz del Pitaitutgam. The maps
below show some of the differences.
Comparision to my map shows that they did not take sufficient care to map all the features. Many more houses and thermal features are present that they
did not record, as are other feature types they neglected to map. The structures exposed through excavation, as shown in the photos above reveal this
fact, as do the photos of the roasting pits that did not make it onto Vint's map.
A map of this site prepared by Jim Vint of the
Center for Desert Archaeology is very similar
to Di Peso's and equally inadequate.
Historic maps drawn by Kino show that there is a difference in the location of sites with the prefix "Santa Cruz" through time and these differences can be identified
with reference to a key tributary river to the San Pedro. Santa Cruz del Pitaitutgam is clearly marked to the north of this tributary and a few years later "Santa Cruz"
(referencing Gaybanipitea according to the journals) is clearly show to the south. The site to the south is also smaller than Pitaitutgam and matches the historic record
in this way and with respect to its placement on the landscape.
Differences in site plan relate to the number of structures relative to the size of the landform and also the pre-construction planning that occurred at Gaybanipitea,
whereas at Pitaitutgam the site seems to have grown over time, adding houses as needed but organized fashion. Superimposed structures support this notion of
gradual accumulation and development through time as does the stacking of linear rows of houses back from the terrace edge.
The facts of these sites and the documentary record are sufficiently interesting that it is not necessary to resort to data that are almost a century old. Careful field work
and documentary review provide answers that differ substantially from those proposed in the past. Cursory mapping efforts and use of outdated information only
confuse matters. The post-modern fog of uncertainty created by recent Center for Desert Archaeology dabblings (by Vint, Ferguson, and Colwell-Chanthaphonh) should
not be confused with real research and scholarly contributions to protohistoric and historic research.
Abundant smaller thermal features are present as well. The one shown below shows clear fire-cracked and fire-affected rock on the
ground surface. When the surface sediment is brushed away and the loose rocks (kicked out of place by people and cattle and dispersed
as sediment has deflated) are removed the outline of an intact rock-lined fire pit is visible. Ashy sediment and charcoal are apparent in
the fill of the feature and dark staining spreads out from it.
Fire-cracked rock and fire-affected rock are visible on the ground
surface and are clustered together, providing clear evidence of
the presence of a thermal feature.
Careful excavation of the surface sediments is accomplished
by brushing away the loose surface material, leaving
embedded rocks in place.
A circular outline of embedded rocks is clearly visible, illustrating that the feature is rock lined. Charcoal-rich ash staining in the center of the feature will be
sufficiently dense to date, as will a small highly burned rock found in the fill. When excavated the clearly cultural signature is diffiuclt to miss.
Di Peso also did not understand that Sobaipuri houses are always paired. Because
he did not know this some of the second houses were not found.
Di Peso also did not know that they tend to be arranged in linear rows. Had he
known this he would have found the additional structures now known to be
present at this site. This makes the site far too large to be Santa Cruz de
Gaybanipitea, that is, if all the structures are contemporaneous.
This knowledge about the placement and pairing of structures makes the
positioning of additional structures predictable, accounting for how we were able
to identify a new structure with the excavation of the first 2 x 2 m unit.
Inattention to the recent literature almost resulted in the destruction of this
important site. The Center for Desert Archaeology proposed to backfill Di Peso's
houses using sediment from adjacent to the structures. Had they done this they
would have destroyed information from around the house, in outdoor work areas.
This is where the most abundant and important data are found that provide
information on the way the houses were used and the activities that occurred
there. Fortunately I was able to stop that plan of action before it proceeded.
As expected, our current excavations are revealing abundant data in these
household-related outdoor work areas and are confirming patterns seen at other