Study and Display of Wupatki Pots
Two years ago, during a particularly heavy summer rainy season, erosion created a gully in a deep cinder slope at Wupatki. The erosion uncovered a prehistoric sandstone cist, a storage box made of sandstone rocks, and in fact threatened to collapse it. Inside that cist were beautiful ceramic vessels which had been buried there for over 800 years. An emergency excavation was undertaken to protect the artifacts inside the cist, and seven mostly intact pots and bowls were recovered from the site. These have now been transferred to the Museum of Northern Arizona where they are currently in curatorial storage. The NPS now has an unusual opportunity to study very rare prehistoric artifacts in order to better understand the peoples who lived in Wupatki so long ago.
FoFM is now trying to raise financial support for a two-part project related to this discovery:
Scientific Research – this discovery provides the NPS with an opportunity to conduct its first scientific study of prehistoric artifacts from the Monument (rather than simply preservation) in decades. The NPS needs funding to study the ceramic vessels and to send samples of the artifacts and their contents to external laboratories for testing and analysis. The vessels may contain ceremonial materials, seeds and plant materials. The vessels themselves appear to be from different prehistoric peoples. This could help advance knowledge of the dietary habits of the cultures that dwelled in the region, and potentially their customs or even trading patterns as well.
An Improved Visitor Experience – depending on the degree of funding available for the project, the Visitor Center at Wupatki would either put the artifacts on display in a stand-alone cabinet, or ideally in the form of a diorama-style display which would present the cist and its contents in a manner that would represent context. Either method would provide a real opportunity for improving the visitor experience at the monument. In this second part, recognition may be provided to the donor(s) in the form of an acknowledgement on the display.