Thursday, September 7, 2017

Volunteering at PGM

Enjoy something a little different from PGM. This guest blog was written by the son of PGM's Visitor Services Supervisor. We welcome volunteers of all ages, interests, and enthusiasm!

Volunteering at PGM

I am going to tell you how I help at Pueblo Grande Museum where my mom works.  I have gone there for the past three years on my birthday.  Pueblo Grande Museum is an archaeological site in Phoenix where they give tours and study artifacts. I even went there for a field trip in second grade!

This year, when I was walking towards the entrance I saw a baby bunny hopping across the path and my mom took a picture of it with her phone.  I started by watering the plants and opening the gates. Then, I went on patrol of the site in the Gator.  A Gator is a small work truck that doesn’t have any doors or seat-belts.  Mom even filmed it so I have proof.  It was really fun! 

After that, I went inside and did some office work.  The jobs I did include vacuuming the library, vacuuming an entrance mat, organizing Mom’s book shelf, and shredding papers.  I did so much shredding that both of the shredders overheated, so I moved on to something else.

The last jobs I did before lunch were to help paint plaster petroglyphs and cut out turtle crafts for the kids that are coming to the museum for a field trip. Then we had lunch and celebrated my birthday with some cupcakes in the lounge. Soon after that we used the copy machine to print some papers and went home to celebrate the rest of my birthday.  I am looking forward to coming back next year for my birthday to help out.

By Nathan Andrew

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Eclipses in the Hohokam Sky

With all this excitement over the upcoming eclipse on August 21, 2017, Museum staff began to wonder, what it would have been like for the Hohokam to see an eclipse? Would there be any evidence that they recorded these celestial events? There has to be some research out there! Right?


Pueblo Grande Museum staff did a little research of our own voilà!

We found a research paper by Bruce W. Masse, and Fred Espenak from 2006, Sky as Environment: Solar Eclipses and Hohokam Culture Change. This paper is part of the larger publication of papers, Environmental Change and Human Adaptation in the Ancient American Southwest, from the 61st Annual Society for American Archaeology Meeting in New Orleans, LA, in 1996.

And after reaching out to our archaeology friends and colleagues, we discovered that former city of Phoenix Archaeologist, Todd Bostwick, Ph.D. had written a summary of this very paper! AND he was kind enough to share it with us, so that we could share it with you!

We figured that if we were nerdy enough to get excited about a paper that discusses how NASA software was used to track multiple celestial events that would have been witnessed by the Hohokam, such as supernovas, comets, meteors AND solar and lunar eclipses…. Then maybe others would be too!

Below is the summary by Dr. Todd Bostwick of the Masse and Espenak article with some of the tables from the Sky as Environment paper:

The Hohokam Night Sky

Our current understanding of the Hohokam night sky can be aided by computer programs that reconstruct major celestial events for a particular period of time. Masse and Espenak (2006) have identified a number of celestial events that the Hohokam witnessed during their reign in the Sonoran Desert. These include supernova, comets, meteors, planetary conjunctions of planets visible to the naked eye (Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Mercury), and solar and lunar eclipses. 

The Hohokam would have seen a series of meteor storms between A.D. 800 and 940, and Masse and Espenak (2006:275) propose that the use of repeated starlike elements on Hohokam pottery during the Colonial period may record impressions left by those meteors. During the eleventh century, two major supernova occurred in the Hohokam night sky—the Lupus supernova of A.D. 1006 and the Crab supernova of A.D. 1054. In addition, as many as 900 comets would have passed through the night, including Halley’s comet in A.D. 1066. Some of these comets would have looked like horned or feathered serpents, perhaps providing inspiration for pottery and rock art images. 

Possibly most influential on the Hohokam were solar eclipses, when the Sun suddenly disappears during the day. Although short in duration, solar eclipses are known to cause animals to become silent and confused, flowers to close, unusual gusts of wind, and Venus and Jupiter to appear in the sky during the day. Utilizing software developed by Fred Espenak for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( and other astronomy programs, Masse and Espenak (2006) reconstructed the times and locations of all solar eclipses that occurred in the Hohokam territory. The first total solar eclipse to be seen by most Hohokam took place in A.D. 736, followed by another one 61 years later (A.D. 797). Total eclipses also occurred in A.D. 1076 and 1379. Masse and Espenak (2006) argue that these four solar eclipses had profound effects on the Hohokam, ushering in changes in their society and material culture. 
The eclipse of A.D. 797 occurred only a few years before the huge floods of A.D. 803–805, and both of these events coincide with the introduction of the ritual ballgame to the Hohokam from southern groups, possibly “to prevent further occurrences of both solar eclipses and floods” (Masse and Espenak 2006:262). The eclipse of A.D. 1076 is associated with the abandonment of Snaketown (upon which the eclipse path was centered) and other important villages, leading to the reorganization of the Hohokam during the Classic period. The Hohokam ballcourt system declined regionwide soon after Snaketown’s demise. The total solar eclipse of A.D. 1379 took place only a few years before the major floods of A.D. 1381–1384. Archaeologists currently think that these floods, combined with droughts and social upheaval, brought about the collapse of the Hohokam culture.

An O’odham story about the destruction of the Hohokam villages mentions that Elder Brother, while sitting beside the Casa Grande Big House, made the Sun and Moon stand still (Bahr 2001:45). Masse and Espenak suggest this may have been a cultural encoding of the solar eclipse of A.D. 1379, a “clarion call to assemble the armies to overthrow the Hohokam” (2006:272). Casa Grande is located in the center of the eclipse path, a location in which the physical effects of an eclipse are most noticeable. Although we will never know for certain if the solar eclipses were directly responsible for changes in Hohokam society, it is likely that they were considered highly significant events that brought great concern to Hohokam sky watchers and village leaders.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

PGM Artifact of the Month

Meet Artifact 2015.33.271!

We love this incised stone donut which was found at a site in the southeastern Phoenix metro area. The use of these donut stones is hotly debated by archaeologists. (Little known fact: archaeologists will debate just about anything!) Some think they were digging stick weights, others think they were corn shuckers, and similar objects from Mexico may have been used as weights for spinning cordage. 

What is your best guess? Either way... any time you can work the word "donut" into an archaeological conversation is a win-win situation. 

Anyone else suddenly hungry?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

What's the Story?

This year, Pueblo Grande Museum is excited to be participating in the international Museum Week events! For those of you that don't know:

Hosted over 19 – 25 June, #MuseumWeek is an international online event celebrating and showcasing all things from cultural institutions over 7 days, 7 themes, 7 hashtags! It will provide an opportunity for them to share and discuss their special passions with the public on social networks, using hashtags dedicated to the event.

Today's theme for Wednesday, June 22, 2017 is stories. And when PGM staff got to thinking about this theme, our Curator of Collections Lindsey Vogel-Teeter, came up with the idea of an object whose story is unknown. And all the crazy ideas, backstories, and theories that go along or evolve from them.

Lindsey then shared this object from our collection: 1998.37.89. Because it always makes her think... what is its story?

It’s a partial dental plate (partial dentures) that was found in a privy (outhouse) during excavations in downtown Phoenix, prior to the construction of the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse. Previously, the area where the dental plate was found was owned by the Dorris family.  Mrs. Sally Dorris ran a boardinghouse and Mr. J.W. Dorris began as a confectioner but later went into the grocery and wholesale business.  The privy was filled between 1900 and 1910.

Here’s my question – How did these dentures end up in an outhouse? Did they fall in by accident or was it on purpose? Dentures are expensive and these are really worn down, so someone must have missed them. Did they belong to someone in the Dorris family? Or maybe a boarder? There’s really no way to know.

What's the true story of these dentures...  only the outhouse is privy to the truth!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Proud to be a Blue Star Museum

Pueblo Grande Museum is one of more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to military personnel and their families this summer in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the Department of Defense 

Today, Pueblo Grande Museum along with more than 2,000 museums across America, announced the launch of Blue Star Museums, a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the Department of Defense, to offer free admission to the nation’s active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The program provides families an opportunity to enjoy the nation's cultural heritage and learn more about their community, especially after a military move. A list of participating museums is available at 

“Pueblo Grande Museum is proud to be a Blue Star Museum for the fifth year in a row. The Blue Star Families program is a great opportunity for military families to spend quality time together. I wish this program had been in place when I was growing up as an Air Force brat! This is an extra special way to say thank you to not only those who serve in the armed forces, but to their families too,” Laura Andrew, Visitor Services Supervisor at Pueblo Grande Museum. "

The Blue Star Museums program is a great opportunity for the NEA to team up with local museums in every state in the nation to support our service members and their families," said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “It means a lot to offer these families access to high-quality, budget-friendly opportunities to spend time together.” 

This year’s Blue Star Museums represent not just fine arts museums, but also science museums, history museums, nature centers, and dozens of children’s museums, including newly participating museums: the Edgar Allen Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia; The Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame Museum in Memphis Tennessee; the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in Hagerman Idaho; and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. Museums are welcome to join Blue Star Museums throughout the summer. 

“Whether they want to blast off at a science museum, take a walk through nature, or encounter animals at the aquarium, Blue Star Museums will help service members and their families create memories this summer,” said Blue Star Families Chief Executive Officer Kathy Roth-Douquet. “This fantastic collaboration with the NEA brings our local military and civilian communities together, and offers families fun and enriching activities in their home towns. We are thrilled with the continued growth of the program and the unparalleled opportunities it offers.”

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Artifact of the Month

What’s the oldest object that we have at Pueblo Grande Museum?


This charcoal sample was collected from a hearth in the north valley. It’s one of the oldest archaeological specimens in the Phoenix Metro area! When the specimen was processed, a charred mesquite seed radiocarbon dated to 2925 BC (+/- 30 years). 

Monday, April 3, 2017

PGM Artifact of the Month

Meet Artifact of the Month 98.37.63: 

From 28 October through 20 December 1996, Desert Archaeology, Inc., conducted a data recovery project on an area between Washington and Jefferson Street, and 4th and 6th Avenue within blocks 72 and 73 of the original #Phoenix townsite. Prehistoric and historic archaeological features were excavated, and over 50,000 artifacts were recovered.  Most of the items recovered were historic materials removed from wells and outhouses; glass and metal made up almost 87% of the recovered assemblage. 

This essentially complete reconstructed polychrome porcelain vase with appliquéd figures was one of the artifacts found during those excavations. The rim is outlined by a painted burgundy/mauve line. The design on this vase is very similar in style to the descriptions of Chinese Rose Mandarin and Rose Medallion patterns. Both patterns employ panels of people in garden settings separated by flowers, birds, and butterflies. The Rose Medallion pattern is more similar in that this takes place in four panels instead of the flora and fauna being incorporated into the borders. The borders here include green foliage, pink peonies, and can also employ gold in the border as well as in the women's hairdos. The Rose Mandarin pattern was popular until 1840 while the Rose Medallion pattern dates from 1796 - 1820. However, these patterns have been widely copied in the late 19th and 20th centuries with Rose Medallion being readily available in stores in Chinatowns throughout the U.S.