Desert Archaeology, Inc., implemented an archaeological monitoring project for Pima County within the historic Court Street Cemetery, AZ BB:13:156 (ASM). Eleven locations within and adjacent to the cemetery were monitored during installation of a new plastic lining within the existing ceramic sewer pipes, first installed in the mid-1910s.
The Court Street Cemetery was established in 1875, on what was then the far north side of Tucson. It was envisioned as the final resting place for approximately 8,000-9,000 city residents. The cemetery was divided into sections, including areas for religious and fraternal organizations, as well as a non- secular area for city residents. The Catholic portion of the cemetery encompassed 50 percent of the total area. Efforts to enhance the physical appearance of the cemetery through landscaping and fencing of the different sections were thwarted by the lack of water for vegetation, a high caliche level, and overall apathy of city residents. As Tucson grew northward, the Catholic Church and the Tucson business community opted, in 1907, to open new cemeteries farther from town, to remove the burials already present, and to use the land for residential and commercial development. However, problems in relocating graves, the lack of interested relatives and friends, and the relatively high cost of exhuming the remains, made efforts to remove the burials difficult, and many bodies were left behind, although the exact number is unknown.
Since 1949, archaeologists have documented 48 burials in the Court Street Cemetery, including the 11 identified during the current project. During this project, 11 trenches were excavated to repair broken pipes, replace manhole covers, or to install new clean-outs. Human remains or burials were identified in five locations. Isolated human bone was found in one trench, likely representing a burial disturbed during the initial sewer pipe installation. Eleven graves were identified in four other trenches: seven were excavated by archaeologists, and four were left in place, as they were not being disturbed by the current utility project.
Three of the seven excavated burials had not been exhumed, with one burial heavily disturbed by the initial sewer construction. Four other burials had been exhumed between 1907 and 1916, but in each case, partial human remains, clothing items, and the coffin had been left behind. Analysis of the human remains identified men, women, and children. All appear to have been interred wearing clothing. One woman held a rosary in her hand, while a male had a glass-covered picture frame placed with him. Two of the burials lacked elaborate coffin hardware, in contrast with the other five. Many pieces of hardware could be matched to contemporary coffin hard- ware catalogs. Other human remains and coffin parts were recovered from the old sewer line trench backdirt, indicating many other burials were disturbed by construction of the sewer system. All the remains and associated artifacts recovered during this project were from the Catholic portion of the cemetery.
Repairs and installation of new sewer, water, natural gas, and communication cable lines will take place within the boundaries of the Court Street Cemetery. Desert Archaeology, Inc., recommends all future utility work be monitored and the work be conducted under the conditions outlined in the Order Permitting Disinterment and Reinterment of Human Remains issued by the Superior Court of the State of Arizona in and for the County of Pima (Case No. C210120994).