Gila Pueblo Site Tags

Gila Pueblo Site Tags

Gila Pueblo Site Tags
Recovered from Sierra Ancha Cliff Dwellings
AZ C:1:25(GP) (AZ V:1:164[ASM]) and AZ C:1:46(GP) (AZ V:1:174[ASM])
Brass and copper
Tag dimensions - Height 3.0 in. (7.5 cm.), Width: 3.2 in. (8.1 cm.)
Collected by Richard C. Lange, 1980s
(ASM Catalog Nos. 2004-1733-1 & 2004-1733-2)

Richard C. Lange

Text by Richard C. Lange, retired Research Specialist Principal, July 1, 2010

How Do Archaeologists Permanently Mark a Site?

These tags were used by the staff of Gila Pueblo Archaeological Foundation, based in Globe, Arizona, to mark archaeological sites found as a result of their reconnaissance surveys throughout the Southwest from the 1920s to the 1950s. Each was made from a small sheet of brass fitted with a stout piece of copper wire to twist around a tree branch at a site or to insert into a joint in a masonry wall. The foundation’s name was stamped into each tag, and a site number could be stamped in with a die set or scratched into the tag’s surface. The idea was to leave a permanent indicator that the site had been recorded.

Other site markers used by archaeologists include wooden and metal stakes, and metal tags or caps, sometimes anchored in cement or nailed to trees. An article by Alan Ferg provides a brief summary of the ways that archaeologists have marked sites through the years. Of the many site tags left by Gila Pueblo, these are the only two stamped examples in Arizona State Museum collections—they are historic artifacts in their own right. ASM has two others. One is blank, and the other, from a site in northern Arizona, bears a scratched site number. Only a few other Gila Pueblo site tags are known from sites in New Mexico and northern Arizona.

The tags featured here were put into cliff dwellings in the Sierra Ancha of central Arizona during a project conducted by Emil Haury from 1929 to 1930. At that time, Haury was a new graduate of the University of Arizona, then serving as the Assistant Director of Gila Pueblo. He went on to become Head of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Arizona and Director of the Arizona State Museum. Haury is regarded as one of the fathers of Southwestern archaeology.

I collected these tags in the 1980s, because they were the only ones found in any of the sites relocated in the Sierra Ancha, and because of their historical significance. It is unclear how many sites may have been marked with this kind of tag, in this area or among the more than 8,000 sites recorded by Gila Pueblo. Perhaps such site tags were not commonly used, or else the vast majority have been removed by rodents such as packrats, have decayed and disappeared, or have been taken by souvenir hunters.


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Ferg, Alan

gila tag

Haury, Emil W

Haury, Emil W.

  • 1988 Gila Pueblo Archaeological Foundation: A History and Some Personal Notes. The Kiva 54(1):1-96.

Lange, Richard C.

  • 2006 Echoes in the Canyons: The Archaeology of the Southeastern Sierra Ancha, Central Arizona. Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series 198, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.