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Scholars Find Ancient Canals at Water Park Site

MESA, Ariz. (AP)—Scholars have unearthed a section of an ancient canal system while conducting an archaeological and cultural study tied to the planned development of a massive water park in Mesa. The canals, which were developed by the Hohokam people, can’t be seen with the naked eye.

“Through satellite imagery, sometimes we can actually see the canals, kind of a signature of them,” said Jerry B. Howard, curator of anthropology at the Arizona Museum of Natural History. “The soil in them is different than the other soil around them—more porous and moist—still conducting water, if you will.”

Howard is among the scholars who worked on an archaeological study that’s one of the first steps that must be taken before construction can begin on the Waveyard. As envisioned, the Waveyard water park would offer surf-sized waves, snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking.

Howard said his team completed the first portion of a study on a tract of future Waveyard land using radio carbon dating to determine the age of the canals.

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“Pretty neat stuff buried under the city,” he said. “People don’t know about it.”

Hohokam canals and dwellings have been found throughout the Phoenix area. Four American Indian tribes today—the Salt River Pima-Maricopa, the Ak-Chin, the Gila River and the Tohono O’odham—trace their ancestry back to the Hohokam, who disappeared from the area in the 15th century.

Natalie N. Lewis, a Mesa projects manager working with Waveyard, said the archaeological study and a cultural study funded by the city are necessary steps toward selling the land and developing it.

The earliest projected start date of the Waveyard site had been slated for 2010, but the economy has all but guaranteed a delay, said Robert Brinton, executive director of the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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