The Tubac Presidio State Historic Park has a few new artifacts thanks to an assist from Mother Nature.
An Aug. 2 storm brought hail and high winds that knocked down two Chilean Mesquite trees and wriggled a Ponderosa Pine until the roots were exposed along with a bit of history.
Park director Shannon Stone said none of the buildings at the Presidio were damaged, and an irrigation system even escaped damage as the massive mesquites uprooted around it while leaving it intact. But while the irrigation system managed to stay in the ground, three small artifacts didn’t.
And that’s a little blessing for Stone and her crew of volunteers.
“We didn’t know it was there, and I would bet money under all of these trees there are artifacts because of how old this property is,” she said. “That’s why legally we’re not allowed to dig holes bigger than a T-stake, so like 2 inches, in case we find something. That’s why, if we dig, we have to call the state archeologist to come out here because the whole site is considered historic.”
Spaniards established San Ignacio de Tubac in 1752, making it the oldest Spanish Presidio in Arizona. And the site’s history goes back much further with O’odham people occupying the area as early as 1500.
On Aug. 3, one of the Presidio’s board members discovered two artifacts – pieces of majolica and polychrome – while inspecting the uprooted trees. Stone found the third item, which was a piece of a cobalt blue medicine bottleneck. All three pieces are from the 1800s.
The Presidio hopes to use donations to replace the Chilean Mesquite trees with something easier to maintain and native to the area. Just not too quickly.
“Let’s get someone to sponsor these trees so we can have shade again, but we really want to take time with it so we can go over and see if there are any other artifacts,” Stone said.
And while most people would be upset about having winds uproot their trees, Stone sees the good in the Aug. 2 storm.
“It’s kind of cool we get to see the artifacts, and we don’t have to maintain those thorny trees anymore,” she said. “And we’re helping out the community. The volunteers taking the wood – some of them are artists carving animals or other sculptures, or they’re ranchers. It all goes around, and it’s all getting repurposed. It’s not all for nothing.”