TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s been a long wait for some archaeologists and for drivers who travel the bedeviled I-10 and Ruthrauff interchange.
Both are getting something they have wished for, for a very long time.
For drivers, the end of the eternal backups and waiting for trains that often hold up traffic at the underpass.
That’s still a couple of years away but work has begun.
The archaeologists are getting access to a dig at a site they’ve been eyeing for the past couple of decades.
The Santa Cruz riverbanks are home to some of the best archaeological sites for those studying the Tucson basin and why 3,000 years ago, people stopped being nomads and suddenly settled down in communities.
The Santa Cruz is a treasure trove of those communities, at least recent history points in that direction.
The digs so far extend from Prince Road north to Ina Road.
The Los Pozos site near Prince and I-10 was the first piece of the puzzle. In 1993, it unearthed evidence of an agricultural village which predates the Hohokam by hundreds of years and changed the way they looked at how the area was settled.
That's only a mile or so away from the Ruthrauff site.
In 2009, another village was found when work was done to expand the Ina Road sewage treatment plant.
“It’s about the most complete look that we have to date of canal and irrigation technology from about 32-hundred years ago,” said Jim Vint, lead archaeologist on the site at the time.
It’s about four miles from the Ruthrauff site.
In 2016, when Pima County expanded its Pima Animal Care Center, the archaeological dig discovered hundreds of footprints of adults, children and canines.
They were 3,000 years old.
It's less than a mile from the Ruthrauff site.
It’s easy to see why the new construction site is viewed as an important piece of the puzzle.
At any new construction site, the state requires an excavation to determine the area's history and if necessary, preserve it.
The Arizona Transportation Department has been one of the biggest supporters of preserving antiquities.
But because of federal law which prohibits revealing sites and finds until the project is complete, it can say nothing about what has been found or what is anticipated at the site.
The archaeologists are also sworn to secrecy at this time.
But what we do know is they were anxious to get into the site, and have been for years, to try to discover more history about what took place here thousands of years ago and how it fits into what Tucson has become.