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Introduction to Archeology Series: Ancestral Piipaash and O’odham Places Along the Lower Gila River

Aaron M. Wright gave a presentation on the lower Gila River area which has been overlooked by many archaeologists for the last 60 years.

On April 24, preservation archaeologist Aaron M. Wright from Archaeology Southwest in Tucson gave a presentation at the Salt River Community Building about ancestral Piipaash and O’odham sites along the lower Gila River.

The reason for the presentation, Wright said, was that the lower Gila River area has been overlooked by many archaeologists for the last 60 years, and recent work there has been uncovering new artifacts and information dating back 1,000 years.

Wright, author of the dissertation Hohokam Rock Art, Ritual Practice, and Social Transformation in the Phoenix Basin and most recently The Great Bend of the Gila: A Nationally Significant Cultural Landscape, shared information on the archaeological findings within that southern area. He showed photographs of different pictographs (painted rock art) and petroglyphs (rock carvings), including rock wall formations that may have been used for ball courts or other uses.

He and his team also found white-on-black pottery, which was something new and different for the area and believed to have come from the Yavapai Indians who lived north of the Gila River. He also discussed how various tribes could have traveled to and from the area to trade items. Wright said this area is called the “Patayan presence” by archaeologists, a term that describes a tribal culture going back to A.D. 700-1550 in the Southwest.

Photographs, including aerial shots of trails, summit paths, houses and burial sites, showed how these sites were different from what archaeologists have found in the past. Maps of the area were also shared.

After the presentation, attendees chatted with Wright to get more information on his findings. A light dinner was provided.

To learn more about this ancient culture, visit

This presentation was one of several that will be offered this year through the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Cultural Preservation Program. For more information on upcoming presentations, contact the Cultural Preservation Program at (480) 362-6325.