About the VVAC
OUR MISSION is to preserve archaeological sites and collections, to curate the collections locally, and to make them available for research and education; to develop partnerships with American Indians, cultural groups and the communities we serve; and to foster a deeper understanding of prehistory and American Indian history in the Verde Valley through the science of archaeology.
The Verde Valley Archaeology Center (VVAC) is a non-profit Arizona corporation (recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity). It is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of a group of individuals with a professional and avocational interest in the field of archaeology. We value the human adaptation to the Verde Valley and feel that both artifacts and archaeological sites should be protected and preserved as the top priority. An understanding of the past is a key to developing sustainability and the Center believes that the VVAC should provide a forum for the discussion of ideas about the past, present and future.
The Center is the only organization in the Verde Valley region dedicated to the care, management and use ('curation') of archaeological artifacts found throughout the Verde Valley region. The Center's vision is to be the foremost research and educational institution devoted to the preservation, interpretation, and celebration of archaeology of the Verde Valley by creating and sustaining an archaeological center and museum where artifacts:
are cared for in a state-of-the-art environment
are available for further academic and professional research
are used in educational programs and museum exhibits so the public can enjoy learning about the prehistory of the Verde Valley
From 1884 to 1888, Dr. Edgar Mearns, the surgeon at Fort Verde documented every major pueblo within a 50-mile radius of the fort. He was also the first to excavate several of the sites, including Montezuma Castle and Clear Creek Ruin. In 1890 he wrote the first nationally circulated article on the Verde Valley's ancient ruins. It created widespread interest among archaeologists and was the impetus for at least two subsequent surveys along the Verde River and its tributaries.
But Mearns also began a practice that has seen most of the valley's treasures carted off to someplace else. Mearns sent wagon loads of items to New York's Museum of Natural History. The two subsequent expeditions of Cosmos Mindeleff and Jesse Walter Fewkes saw artifacts sent off to the Field Museum in Chicago, the Smithsonian and the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. When the National Park Service became managers of Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well and Tuzigoot, they were forced to send what couldn't be displayed on site to their Western Archaeological Conservation Center in Tucson.
"Virtually every major artifact collection from the Verde Valley is some place other than the Verde Valley," says Jim Graceffa, President of the Center. There are many good reasons for creating an archaeology center in the Verde Valley, but the one that keeps coming up most often is the loss of artifacts that continues today. Verde Valley artifacts are in museums and universities around the world -- everywhere but here. Over the years dozens of other archaeologists have sent items to the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott and the Arizona State Museum in Tucson.
It's not just those items found in research or regulatory compliance excavations; it's also a matter of finding a place for private collections. We get asked all the time to find a home for private collections. If we don't make one, they will also find their way out of here. The drain of artifacts is one of the primary reasons the Center was created.
Our Ten-Year History is available in a special edition of the Verde Valley Archaeologist quarterly publication.