Arizona Museum of Natural History announces Groundbreaking for Mesa Grande Welcoming Center

Mesa Grande is an ancient treasure in the middle of a modern city that has created unusual interest to the public and substantial scientific significance to the archaeological profession. To enhance the experience, a groundbreaking ceremony was held today for the Mesa Grande Welcoming Center and Gathering Place.

“Mesa Grande is a point of pride in our City and the Welcoming Center will create an important cultural destination, provide a learning environment for school children and adults and will assist archaeology students and museum staff with ongoing excavations,” Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said.

The project will include a Welcoming Center, an outdoor covered gathering area and a parking area. The Welcoming Center is designed to replicate Native American building techniques.

“The Welcoming Center will allow us to show more people in Mesa and the valley how special Mesa Grande is. Today’s groundbreaking is the result of many years of hard work by museum staff, archaeologists, community leaders and the Native American community to preserve and promote it,” District 1 Councilmember Dave Richins said.

The City of Mesa purchased the six-acre site at 10th St. and Date in 1985. The Arizona Museum of Natural History, owned and operated by the City, preserves Mesa Grande and plans to open it as an official Arizona 2012 Centennial Legacy Project. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Mesa Grande is one of the most important prehistoric Hohokam sites in Arizona. We are delighted that, with the construction of the Welcoming Center, Mesa Grande will soon be open for all to enjoy,” Arizona Museum of Natural History Administrator Tom Wilson said.

Mesa Grande represents the remains of one of the largest and most complex ancient Hohokam platform mound communities in the United States. The Hohokam built and used the platform mound between approximately A.D. 1100 and 1450. The mound is larger in length than a modern football field and 27 feet tall. Western explorers first discovered the site in the mid-19th century.

Funding for the Welcoming Center is from a generous grant from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, cultural impact fees and private donations. Construction is expected to be completed late this fall. –

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