Downtown dig uncovers Hohokam pit houses

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The foundation of the city's first and second fire stations is uncovered at "Block 23." (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The foundation of the city's first and second fire stations is uncovered at "Block 23." (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Sherds of pottery were also found scattered throughout, some pieces 1,000 years old. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Sherds of pottery were also found scattered throughout, some pieces 1,000 years old. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Hohokam pit houses were discovered under 'Block 23.' (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Hohokam pit houses were discovered under 'Block 23.' (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Big discoveries are being made beneath downtown Phoenix in preparation for a new Fry's grocery store near First Street and Washington Avenue.   

Before the future building goes up, first archaeologists had to turn their attention down to preserve the past.

[READ MORE: Planned site of downtown grocery store has prehistoric past]

“In Phoenix, they have a preservation ordinance that’s been in effect for a number of years,” explained Senior Archaeologist Mark Hackbarth.  

They knew they’d make discoveries into the city’s ancient history here, but they were surprised by just how much they dug up.

‘Block 23’ has not always been a parking lot. It’s seen a theater and a JCPenneys. But long before that, it was home to the city’s very first fire house.  

Its foundation, dating back to 1894, has been uncovered for the first time in generations. It's young in comparison to what else they found.

[READ MORE: Future home of downtown grocery store has quite the past]

They also unearthed several Hohokam pit houses, possibly constructed between 250 and 650 A.D., as part of a small farmstead.

When the neighboring blocks were developed, they found Native American ruins there too. These pits are likely from that same settlement.

“The people were probably here only part of the year, so they’re semi-sedentary. Their houses here would not be all that substantial because they would leave after a couple of months,” said Hackbarth.

Sherds of pottery were also found scattered throughout, some pieces 1,000 years old.

“We can say, 'Oh there's a trade connection, they're exchanging because that pottery is fairly common," explained Hackbarth.

Those fragments were bagged and labeled, to be taken for safe-keeping.

The rest of the site will get torn up when construction starts in just two weeks.

[READ MORE: Downtown Phoenix to get Fry's Food Store]

“This is how everything progresses, and the fact that we are able to preserve a portion of it at least in the virtual world is perfect,” said Hackbarth.

When they’re done with the dig, all of this information will be gifted to the Pueblo Grande Museum.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Lauren ReimerLauren Reimer joined the 3TV/CBS 5 family in June 2016. She is originally from Racine, WI but is no stranger to our heat.

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Lauren Reimer

She previously worked for KVOA in Tucson, covering topics that matter to Arizonans including the monsoon, wildfires and border issues. During the child migrant crisis of 2014, Reimer was one of only a handful of journalists given access to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Nogales, where hundreds of unaccompanied children were being held after crossing into the U.S. from Central America. Before that, Reimer worked at WREX in Rockford, IL. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and still visits home often. When not chasing news stories, Reimer loves to explore, enjoying everything from trying new adventurous foods to visiting state and national parks or local places of historical significance.

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