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VVAC Speakers

The Verde Valley Archaeology Center can provide speakers for clubs, meetings, conferences and conventions.  Our experts can discuss the prehistoric peoples of the Verde Valley, area rock art, ceramic identification, and other topics.  If you are interested in hosting any of the presentations described below, or on other topics, please contact the Center for booking information at 928-567-0066.

Todd Bostwick, PhD, is the Director of Archaeology for the Verde Valley Archaeology Center. Dr. Todd W. Bostwick has been conducting archaeological research in the Arizona for 38 years. He has a Masters degree in Anthropology and a PhD in History from Arizona State University. Dr. Bostwick was the Phoenix City Archaeologist at Pueblo Grande Museum for 21 years before his retirement in 2010, and was a Faculty Associate at ASU and at NAU for 7 years. He is currently the Director of Archaeology at Verde Valley Archaeology Center. Dr. Bostwick has written and edited numerous articles and books on the American Southwest, including Landscape of the Spirits: Hohokam Rock Art at South Mountain Park, published by the University of Arizona.

Working in the Salt Mine: Ancient and Historic Mining of Salt in Central Arizona
Salt has been a valuable trade item throughout human history. Native American salt procurement in the Southwest involved dangerous journeys across sacred landscapes associated with a deity called Salt Woman. This presentation describes the history of a famous salt mine in Camp Verde where prehistoric tools used for mining salt were discovered in the 1920s by historic miners. These tools were located deep inside tunnels dug into a thick, fresh-water salt deposit by Sinagua miners. Numerous photographs will be shown of these well-preserved, 700-year old tools and other Sinagua artifacts to illustrate the story of this unusual discovery.

 The Ancient Hohokam Ballgame of Arizona
The ancient Hohokam culture of Arizona constructed at least 200 ball courts more than 800 years ago. These oval depressions were likely used to play a ball game that originated in southern Mexico, where the game was played with a rubber ball and had a very important role in reenacting the creation of humans in this world. This presentation will describe the recorded Hohokam ball courts located within Hohokam villages scattered throughout Arizona, summarize what archaeologists propose they were used for, and discuss how these public structures may relate to what is known about the Mexican rubber ball games, which are still played today.

Landscape of the Spirits: Hohokam Rock Art of South Mountain Park
The South Mountains in Phoenix contain more than 8,000 ancient petroglyphs. This program will discuss Dr. Bostwick’s long-term study of these Hohokam petroglyphs and will describe the various types of designs, their general distribution, and their possible meanings. Interpretations of the petroglyphs include the marking of trails, territories, and astronomical events, as well as dream or trance imagery based on O’odham (Pima) oral traditions. Most of the trails currently used by hikers contain Hohokam rock art, indicating that these trails date back at least 800 years. This talk will be illustrated with numerous slides and drawings of that rock art.

When Romans Visited Tucson: The Lead Cross Controversy
In 1924-1925, a collection of unusual lead artifacts which contained mysterious inscriptions were discovered deeply buried near Silverbell Road in Tucson. These artifacts — crosses, crescents, batons, swords, and spears — generated considerable interest around the world when it was learned that the inscriptions contained Christian, Muslim, Hebraic, and Freemasonry symbols. The artifacts were initially interpreted as evidence that Europeans had come to America hundreds of years before Columbus, but some scholars questioned their authenticity. This talk tells the story of their discovery and the controversies that continue to surround them.

Ken Zoll is the Executive Director of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center.  He is also a site steward with the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office, and a volunteer docent at cultural heritage sites in the Coconino National Forest. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in cultural astronomy of the Southwest and is a certified instructor in cultural astronomy with the Arizona Archaeological Society. Mr. Zoll is the author of several popular books on cultural astronomy and rock art in Central Arizona, as well as several cultural astronomy articles in professional publications.

 From Sun Rise to Meteor Falls: Cultural Astronomy of the Prehistoric Southwest
Throughout history, the ability of a people to survive and thrive has been tied to environmental conditions. The skill to predict the climatic change of the seasons was an essential element in the ability to “control” those conditions. Seasonal calendars thus became the foundation of early cultures: hunting and gathering, planting and harvesting, worshiping and celebrating were activities dictated by specific times of the year. In addition, celestial events such as eclipses and falling stars would have profound effects on belief systems.

 Arizona’s First Meteorite Man: H H Nininger
Harvey Harlow Nininger was an American meteoriticist and educator who revived interest in the scientific study of meteorites in the 1930s and assembled one of the world’s largest personal collections. He is considered the Father of American Meteoritics and was the founder of the American Meteorite Museum near Meteor Crater which subsequently moved to Sedona. He eventually sold his collection to the British Natural History Museum and to the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University. This presentation covers his fascination with this extraterrestrial material and the many discoveries made by Dr. Nininger.

The Billingsley Hopi Dancers
In 1921 the Hopi were told that “church people” petitioned Congress to stop their “pagan” dancing. A platform was erected on the U.S. Capital steps where both Houses of Congress assembled with their families to see the Hopi dancers. Following the performance, Congress passed a Resolution giving the Hopi permission to carry on their dancing “for all time.” The dancers continued to perform culminating in performances at Carnegie Hall in 1955. The Verde Valley Archaeology Center and Hopi Tribe jointly received a grant to preserve a rare 1957 film of the dancers. This presentation provides background and shows the film. The Billingsley Hopi Dancers are featured in Episode 3 of a PBS/BBC production entitled "American Epic."