The GCAS's very own Marilyn Gendron reports a welcome development for archaeological preservationists. the Archaeological Conservancy announced in the Summer 2020 issue of American Archaeology magazine that they have acquired one of our local archaeological sites, Treasure Hill, from long-time friends of the GCAS, archaeologist LaVerne Herrington and her husband, engineer Ellis "Red" Herrington. The article, entitled The Treasures of Treasure Hill: The Conservancy Obtains a Rare, Well-Preserved Mimbres Site, is not yet published online as of this writing but excerpts from it, combined with LaVerne Herrington's own remarks, follow:
In 1919, archaeological pioneers Bert and Hattie Cosgrove purchased two acres of the fifteen-acre Treasure Hill site, a spot where they had found visible artifacts in an area bisected by a road leading to a silver mine. The Cosgroves realized that unless they owned and protected the site, the road made Treasure Hill especially vulnerable to total loss from looting. Indeed, in her book, Treasured Earth: Hattie Cosgroves's Mimbres Archaeology in the American Southwest, Carolyn O'Bagy Davis wrote that at the time:
Local people organized "skeleton picnics" to the prehistoric villages, where they dug in the ruins for turquoise and shell pendants or beads and other treasure, but most especially for the beautiful black-and-white bowls and pots that they found in the burials under the floors of the rooms.
As stewards of Treasure Hill, the Cosgroves excavated an area of their parcel. They were avocational archaeologists but they worked meticulously using the experiences they had gained at other excavations in the Southwest. They had learned scientific techniques from professional archaeologists including such luminaries as Ted Kidder, who was working at the massive site of Pecos in Northeastern New Mexico, and Neil Judd, who was excavating Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon. The Cosgroves' and others' later investigations determined that Treasure Hill dated between roughly A.D. 1100-1150, and consists of six one-story room blocks containing about 100 rooms. The site also contains two plazas and two unexcavated kivas as well as an earlier pit house village that dates to about A.D. 900-1000.
The Cosgroves' stewardship of Treasure Hill endured for 48 years.
LaVerne Cloudt Herrington grew up on her family's ranch about a mile away from Treasure Hill. In 1967, Hattie Cosgrove sold her two-acre parcel of Treasure Hill to Herrington for five hundred dollars. Hattie recognized that LaVerne shared her passion for archaeology, and LaVerne promised Hattie that she would always care for the site. LaVerne did her early archaeological field work at Treasure Hill, studied the Treasure Hill collection from the Cosgroves' excavations (housed at the Museum of Northern Arizona), and scoured institutional archives in a futile search for the Cosgroves' original location maps. LaVerne went on to earn a doctorate in archaeology from the University of Texas at Austin and to serve as the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer in Texas, where she assisted the Archaeological Conservancy in preserving several other sites.
Returning to Treasure Hill, LaVerne got permission from adjoining landowners to examine the area without disturbing portions that the Cosgroves had excavated. Although there appeared to be nothing on the ground, LaVerne suddenly stumbled into a pit house - discovering that the ruins of Treasure Hill extended well beyond her own two-acre parcel. Consequently LaVerne and her husband purchased 13 more acres in 1972 and had the entire tract surveyed. They discovered regular patterns in one area: they had found the Cosgroves' original excavation grid.
In 1993, LaVerne and her husband transferred their property to the newly established Treasure Hill Foundation. The inaugural Board of Directors were LaVerne, archaeologist Gwinn Vivian (whose archaeologist father, Gwinn Vivian Sr., reconstructed the Gila Cliff Dwellings) and archaeologist Darrell Creel. When Gwinn Vivian retired, Carolyn O’Bagy Davis took his spot on the board. The foundation ultimately decided to donate the Treasure Hill site to the Archaeological Conservancy. It is the Archaeological Conservancy's fifth Mimbres site.
Thanks to the Cosgroves and the Herringtons, most of Treasure Hill's structures and features have remained intact and undisturbed. It is considered to be the best-preserved Classic Mimbres-phase Mogollon pueblo. The Archaeological Conservancy will develop a management plan to address site security, access, erosion and stability, and future research. LaVerne Herrington will continue to serve Treasure Hill as one of its volunteer site stewards.
The GCAS heartily congratulates LaVerne and Red Herrington for their dedication in protecting Treasure Hill for the past 53 years. Our group is thrilled that the site has been carefully protected for over a century, and will remain in caring hands - including LaVerne's - into perpetuity. We look forward to hearing more from the Herringtons about this Mimbres treasure.
For information on other sites protected by the Archaeological Conservancy, click here.
To read a short biography on Burt and Hattie Cosgrove written in 1957 by A.V. Kidder for the New Mexico Quarterly, click here.
/s/ webmaster [All photos, GCAS field trip to Treasure Hill, 4. Oct. 2015, led by LaVerne Herrington]