Mesa Grande — the prehistoric site thought to be a religious center for the Hohokam people 1,000 years ago — has been closed to the public since early 2003.
But on Saturday and Sunday during the Archaeological Expo at Mesa Southwest Museum, associate curator Jerry Howard will lead tours of the area where digs have yielded stone axes and shells used for jewelry.
"It’s quite a treasure to have right in the middle of the city," said Ann Howard, Jerry’s wife and public archaeology programs manager for Arizona State Parks.
It is hoped the tours, along with historic and archaeological displays by more than 40 organizations at the event, will give visitors an appreciation for Arizona’s diverse cultural heritage — the remnants of which slowly disappear as developers and looters take over, said Howard.
"Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever."
The Archaeological Expo, a yearly event that marks the end of Archaeology Awareness Month in Arizona, will also feature performances by American Indian dancers, hands-on activities for kids, craft demonstrations, guided tours of Main Street in downtown Mesa and a "passport" program that will allow Boy and Girl Scouts to earn an archaeology badge (and non-Scouts to claim archaeological prowess).
"Arizona is just truly blessed with a very wide diversity and quantity of archaeological and historical sites," Howard said. "It’s important to learn about and preserve them."