Only about two weeks remain for the archeological dig along Silverbell Road.

Dozens of pit houses and bucketfuls of artifacts were found at the site during excavations while a road and park project were underway nearby.

The widening of Silverbell Road between Ina and Cortaro roads had been going on for months, not stopping for the archeologists.

“This is where archeology has gone right alongside the roadwork,” said Desert Archaeology President William Doelle.

Crews also excavated the future site of the Cortaro-Silverbell District Park, the construction of which will begin in November.

Archeologists had an inkling that there were centuries-old settlements in the area, but had no idea of the size of ancient Marana. An estimated 100 to 200 people lived in the community, which like its modern-day counterpart had a foothold in farming thanks to the nearby Santa Cruz River.

The archeology work is complete near the road, and now researchers are wrapping things up in time for construction crews to rebury the site under mounds of dirt, said Marana Cultural Resources Manager Su Benaron.

Researchers estimate the site was occupied from 1100 to 1400 A.D. Pottery designs found at the site are being used to date the settlement.

Jeff Eighmy is demonstrating another way to date the site.

Many of the pit houses have a hearth, buried in the floor, for cooking.

Since iron deposits align themselves with magnetic north the last time they are burned, Eighmy can take samples from the hearth and look at how their direction has changed, at roughly one degree per 20 years.

“Every burial feature we’ve found was removed,” said Debbie Schwartz of Desert Archaeology.

The remains, most of them cremated, were given to the Tohono O’odham for repatriation, Schwartz said.

The next step is to catalog the findings so further analysis can be done, Schwartz said, adding that she doesn’t expect anything to be published about the Silverbell site for several years.

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