Sedona Westerners catch a falling star story

January 1, 2016

Paul Cooley
by Paul Cooley

Ken Zoll's zeal for all things relating to Verde Valley archaeology, especially astroarchaelogy, exuded from him in his telling of the story of the locating of the place of exhumation of the Camp Verde Meteorite among the John Heath Ruin to the Sedona Westerners Tracker hikers on November 11, 2015.

Zoll is the Executive Director of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center in Camp Verde, AZ. The Center was organized in 2010 in order to create a repository for Verde Valley pre-historic artifacts that had been and were being removed from the Verde Valley and curated elsewhere.

Zoll related that the Camp Verde Meteorite was first discovered in 1915 by George Dawson (although there is some question as to that being the exact date) and later acquired by Dr. George Nininger, who along with Dawson, returned to the location of its discovery in the 1930s. A photograph of Nininger at the site of discovery of the meteorite was taken at that time. Zoll stated that not until sometime in 2014, using the photograph of Nininger retrieved from the internet by one of Zoll's associates, Ned Greeneltch, was the exact room of the John Heath Ruin where the meteorite had been exhumed finally discovered.

Paul Cooley left and Verde Valley Archaeology center Executive director Ken Zoll at the site of the John Heath Ruin

An effort had been made to protect the John Heath Ruin by designating it a National Monument. The John Heath Ruin is named for a local rancher who owned property just south of the ruin site, Zoll said. His wife, Jewell Heath began advocating for its protection in 1932. The site had become a pothunter's paradise, and because of construction of nearby roads, things were only getting worse. In 1939 Walter Atwell, brought it to the attention of Frank Jackson the custodian of Montezuma Castle. He reported that between April and November 1933 at least 52 illegal excavations had been made at Heath with an additional 26 made over the Christmas holidays of that year. Jackson secured a permit to begin excavating, but there was no funding for it. Eventually both Tuzigoot and Montezuma Well were granted National Monument status. Montezuma's Castle received it in 1906, but not John Heath.

In 2015, Zoll and the members of the Verde Valley Archaeology Center arranged for the Camp Verde Meteorite's return to Camp Verde and for it to be displayed at the Center's location in Camp Verde for seven months.

Prior to journeying to the ruins site, Zoll met the Sedona Westerner Tracker hikers at the Verde Valley Archaeology Center early in the morning and to give the first part of his presentation. He told them not only the history of the Camp Verde Meteorite, but also about meteorites found at other ancient Native American sites near Winona, AZ, Bloody Basin (between Sedona and Phoenix) and Fossil Springs. Zoll stated that some archaeologist theorize that these meteorites may have been purposely "returned to the earth" in a ritualistic burial. Some of the meteorites Zoll said were found wrapped in blankets made of turkey feathers, a very symbolic material for the ancient Native Americans.

The Sedona Westerner's Tracker hikes, such as the hike to the John Heath Ruin, are special interest hikes first established by the Westerners in 2005.

The hike to and in the John Heath Ruin called for the Sedona Westerners to exercise proper site etiquette and respect for the ancient ruins, which included not climbing, sitting, standing or leaning on ruin walls, not picking up and moving or removing artifacts from the ruin site, and removing and leaving all back packs and hiking poles outside the ruin site. Education in regard to the site in question is one of the avenues for gaining respect for the site, and that education was graciously and generously provided to the Westerners by Ken Zoll.


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