Hand excavation was then performed in select areas, such as at housing pits where workers likely lived while tending the fields or maintaining the irrigation system. 

All told, the team removed 155,865 cubic meters of dirt and conducted intensive excavations in several areas totaling about 7 acres to a depth of 9 ft, says Jim Vint, Desert Archaeology’s project director. 

Four separate irrigation systems were found, rebuilt one on top of the other like a layer cake, separated by major flood events that had covered the previous system with alluvial material up to a foot thick. The fields extend for an estimated 80 to 100 acres, though this may change as more areas open up for investigation. 

The primary crop was maize, or corn. Incredibly, archeologists are able to pinpoint individual planting holes for each corn stalk within the fields, due to slight variations in soil color. 

The ancient irrigation system met its end with a cataclysmic flood which sealed the system beneath a massive amount of sediment. Bad for the farmers in 750 B.C., but good for archeologists today since the site has been preserved in a way similar to Pompeii’s preservation from a volcanic eruption in Italy, Doelle says. 

Keeping a Low Profile

To minimize the impact to construction schedules, Neff gets involved with all county public works projects from the start of planning, working closely to educate on cultural resource compliance rules. 

“The earlier we get involved in their planning, the better we can assist them and the less chance we can cause them any delays,” Neff says. “My goal is to get in, get the info we need, do the archeology, meet the compliance requirements, and then get out, while not impacting the construction schedule. We’ve been able to do that out at Ina Road so far.” 

The archeologists were fully integrated into the construction team at Ina Road, even attending weekly meetings starting with the early stages of pre-planning, Doelle says. 

Workers at the existing plant had no idea there was a virtual archeological goldmine underneath their feet. “I gave weekly tours for employees out at the plant, which opened their eyes as to what we were doing,” Vint says. “A lot of them were really surprised that they were working right on top of this 3,000 year old site. It changed their perspective on where they were working and the importance of history.”