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Prescott exhibit shows area’s prehistoric days

PRESCOTT, Ariz. — The Sharlot Hall Museum has opened the first phase of a
new permanent exhibit in its Lawler building that will trace this region’s
history from pre-human times to Prescott’s territorial capital days.

“In a way, this is the first time any exhibit has synthesized the history of
our region,” said Exhibit Curator Sandy Lynch, the museum’s curator of
anthropology. Archaeologists from the Prescott, Coconino and Tonto national
forests as well as the Museum of Northern Arizona helped her knit the story

Where the museum’s library and archives once occupied the east side of the
Lawler building, the newly opened exhibit tells the story of early humans in the
Central Highlands. It spans from 14,500 to 2,000 years ago, before humans built
permanent settlements.

“It’s just the beginning of a series of expansions over 8-10 years,” Museum
Director John Langellier said of the new exhibit.

The exhibit opening comes at the same time as the museum is finishing
construction on a new building that will free up more exhibit space in the
Lawler building.

The next phase of the permanent exhibit to open in the Lawler building will
cover the time period of 18,000 to 12,000 years ago before humans arrived in the
Central Highlands. It should open early in 2014.

Also next year, Langellier hopes to move the Porter steam engine from the
parking lot to the museum entrance and staff it so people can pay their entrance
fee at “Sharlot’s Depot” and get information. The steam engine comes from the
old mines at Congress south of Prescott.

The timing for the exhibit expansions and Sharlot’s Depot depend on fundraising
success, since the state’s contributions to the state-owned museum have dwindled
in recent years.

The new exhibits will utilize the museum’s vast collections whenever possible.

“The whole object of course is to continue on the path that Sharlot Hall
herself set, which is to bring history alive through our collections,”
Langellier said.

For example, the newly opened exhibit features numerous tools used by ancient
American Indians, such as metate and mano rocks for grinding food that were
found at the Prescott Lakes subdivision and Peeples Valley.

And the next phase will feature a mastodon found on the Prescott National
Forest near Kirkland south of Prescott in 1994.

The new exhibit is state of the art, Langellier noted. National Geographic
illustrations and video screens help tell stories.

It features mounted wolves, mule deer and pronghorn antelope alongside
life-like mannequins of Clovis people. The huge male wolf was shot in northern
Alberta because of a bounty on it for killing cattle, and it closely resembles
the dire wolves of prehistoric times, Lynch said. It has a broken nose, possibly
from taking on a caribou, and part of its ear is chewn off.

In one scene, a Clovis hunter is slinging a dart into a pronghorn with an
atlatl while the dire wolves prowl closer.

In another, a Clovis girl plants seeds in a streambed after strategically
moving rocks and pebbles to catch the water, while another girl sets a rabbit

The backdrops feature huge photos of local landscapes.

Children will enjoy looking for some of the smaller creatures in the exhibits
such as the caterpillar, grasshopper, frog and lizard that exhibit designer
George Fuller created.

Cody Bennett and Tim Yungman got a permit to collect hundreds of rocks from the
Prescott National Forest, then washed them and placed them in the exhibit.
Barbara Rogers did the graphics. The late archaeologist Leon Lorentzen
handcrafted tools such as the atlatl.

“It was such a huge team effort,” Lynch said. “Everybody just pushed
themselves to exhaustion.”

The exhibit helps visitors understand the history of the Clovis people. Only
two Clovis arrowheads have been found in the northwest quadrant of Arizona, and
one was found about 20 miles south of Ash Fork on the Prescott National Forest.

The video screens allow the stories to change with science, Lynch noted. For
example, the latest Clovis theory argues that the Clovis people actually came
from Europe instead of crossing the Bering Straight land bridge.


Information from: The Daily Courier,


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