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ANCIENT CHAMBERS SPAN ACROSS BENEATH NORTHERN ARIZONA

               ANCIENT CHAMBERS SPAN ACROSS BENEATH NORTHERN ARIZONA

       New Orleans (AP) — Three young archaelogists came to Northern
       Arizona and crept through sacred rooms, over rocky precipes and by
       dangerous rattlesnakes to discover a huge complex of catagombs that
       could rewrite theories about the Indians of the southwestern United
       States.

       “It’s absolutely mind-numbing. We would have never believed it could
       have existed,” John W. Hohman, one of the three archaeologists, said
       Friday during the meeting of the 2,000 member Society of American
       Archaeology. “It will change a lot of what we believed about Indians
       in the Southwest.  They may have been far more advanced than we
       believed.”

       Hohman  admitted  to  feeling  a  bit  like  Indiana  Jones,  the
       archaeologists-adventurer from the movies. Armed with a flashlight
       and a pistol, it was Hohman who rapelled down the steep fissures,
       frequently dotted with rattlesnakes sunning themselves on rocky
       outcrops, into the catacombs.

       The catacombs his expedition found are the first reported in the
       United States, officials at the conference said.

       “It’s very exciting to have it annunced at this conference.  It’s
       one of the few times we can say this is a first. Anytime you have a
       first in our business, it’s exciting,” said Dr.  James Schoenwetter,
       professor of anthropology at Arizona State University in Tempe,
       Ariz. “The idea of a very elaborate form of ceremonial chamber being
       built underground hundreds of years ago is surprising.”

       Indians of the southwest United States were not believed to have
       built  underground,  Hohman  said.  For  many  of  the  cultures the
       underground held special connotations, both good and bad, he said.
       Burials were also done much as they are done now, he said, in graves
       dug into the earth.

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       The catacombs, which Hohman and colleagues say are about 700 to 800
       years old, were discovered at a known prehistoric Indian settlement
       about two miles west of Springerville.

       The Mongollon Indians occupied the site sometime between A.D.  1250
       and 1400, Hohman said.

       “There had been some suspicion that there was something underground
       there,” Adams said, “When we actually entered the catacombs though,
       it just blew us away.”

       Getting there wasn’t easy.

       “Everytime I’d get halfway down one of the others would find the
       entry way,” Hohman said.

       The carefully hidden entrances to the catacombs varied from the size
       of doorways to small crawl spaces.

       Once inside, Hohman and his colleagues found three to four acres of
       catacombs, ranging from small chambers to huge rooms 50 feet high
       and 100 feet long.

       “It’s obvious that they were to protect the cattacombs,” said White.
       “The average person living at the site would not have had access to
       the area. It was probably entered only by certain people.”

       Hohman, Diane E. White and Christopher D. Adams were investigating
       the area for the town with an eye toward developing it as a
       recreation area.

       Hohman expects the site to produce at least one more major find.

       “We think there is something else underground there. We’re working
       in an area that we think will produce another major surprise,” he
       said.

       The area, but not the catacombs, is open to the public, and will be
       developed  into  a  recreational  area,  Hohman  said.  The  park is
       expected to be opened within two years, he said.

       Called Casa Malpais, the site represents one of the largest and most
       complex ancient Mongollon communities in the nation, Hohman said.

       [File submitted and upload by Linda Murphy. Springerville is located
       on I-60, close to the New Mexico border]