A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
When retired car salesman Marvin Hatch decided to buy a 64,000-acre cattle
ranch in northeastern Arizona in 1994, he and his business partner Terrence
"Shorty" Reidhead, who had made millions in construction, knew the land
would yield more than just hamburger. The spread, just east of the town of
Holbrook (population 4,700), was studded with artifacts, petroglyphs,
Triassic fossils, and petrified wood, not to mention rare Paleoindian sites
dating from 9500 to 6000 B.C., Basketmaker villages from the first 700 years
A.D., and Pueblo communities from A.D. 700 to around 1450. That land,
coveted by the neighboring Petrified Forest National Park (which lacked the
funding to buy it) and deemed priceless by scientists, could become a cash
cow for Hatch and Reidhead, who paid $3.3 million for the property. Their
seven billboards on nearby Interstate 40 invite motorists to schedule a tour
of their "Triassic Preserve," which opened for business last summer.
Hatch and Reidhead hope tourists will pay $60, $30, or $20 for full-day,
half-day, or two-hour tours exploring the tumbled stones of ancient pueblos,
petroglyphs etched in boulders, and fossils scattered in dry washes. None of
this sits well with archaeologists, who fear that the commercial venture,
well-intentioned though it may be, could threaten cultural resources.
Katherine Drouin Keith is a journalist living in Tucson, Arizona.