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VVAC Speakers Bureau

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.  For availability and further information, please email us at center@verdevalleyarchaeology.org or call the office at 928-567-0066.

We are pleased to advise that the Center's Director of Archaeology and our Executive Director have been selected to represent the Arizona Humanities for the AZ Speaks program. The AZ Speaks program brings the best in humanities scholarship to virtually every corner of Arizona. Presentations are designed to connect local experts to an inquiring public, and foster lively discussions on cultural and historical topics.

If you are interested in hosting any of the Speakers Bureau presentations described below, visit the Arizona Humanities website for details.

Todd Bostwick, PhD, is the Director of Archaeology for the Verde Valley Archaeology Center.  Dr. Bostwick served for 21 years as the City Archaeologist for the City of Phoenix at Pueblo Grande Museum, where he established a comprehensive archaeology compliance program and served as coordinator with the National Park Service for the Pueblo Grande National Historic Landmark. He has been a Faculty Associate at Arizona State University and at Northern Arizona University for several years.

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.

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.

Ancient Native American Astronomical Practices
Throughout history, the ability of a people to survive has been tied to environmental conditions. The skill to predict the seasons was an essential element in the ability to “control” those conditions. Seasonal calendars became the foundation of early cultures for hunting and gathering, planting and harvesting, worshiping and celebrating. The goal of cultural astronomy is to understand how these early skywatchers fashioned and refined systems for regulating their calendars around celestial events, both cyclical and unique. This presentation describes the diverse ways in which prehistoric Native American cultures perceived and integrated the objects in the sky into their worldview.

Meteorites Among Ancient Native American Cultures
The occurrence of meteorites on archaeological sites in North America has been known since the early 19th century. From the Hopewell culture in the eastern United States, to the Polar Eskimo, to the Indians in the American Southwest and northern Mexico, meteorites have been found on these ancient sites. Much like meteorite hunters of today, ancient Native American cultures actively engaged in meteorite collecting. Although we cannot know if a meteorite fall was ever witnessed, the discovery of meteorites at ancient sites and the artifacts made from meteoritic iron appeared to have been reserved for ceremonial purposes.

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."