Skip to main content

Docent really 'digs' archaeology

February 17, 2010

Shelley Rasmussen drives 50 miles each way for her one-day-a-week job – and she gets no pay.

But she wouldn’t trade her commute for anything. She’s doing what she loves most: helping people learn more about archaeology.

Rasmussen, a Wickenburg resident, is a docent at ASU’s Deer Valley Rock Art Center. She drives to the DVRAC every Tuesday to lead tours or do whatever else comes along.

It truly is a labor of love for Rasmussen, who says she is an “avocational archaeologist.”

Her relationship with DVRAC is not a new one, however. She was keeping watch over the site even before there was a DVRAC as a site steward for Arizona Historic Preservation.

“When I heard it was going to become rock art center I went to Peter Welsh (the first director) and asked if he would need docents. I wanted to help out if I could.”

Rasmussen says rock art is one of her passions. “I don’t have a degree. What got me interested in archaeology was working with Pueblo Grande Museum. I was trained there to be a docent – I did tours and archaeology hikes for them for many years.”

Rasmussen’s car could, perhaps, navigate its own way down Deer Valley Road. “The DVRAC is like home because I’ve been there so long,” Rasmussen said. “It’s something very special. It’s one of the major archeological sites that hasn’t been impacted by growth and development.

“It’ a way of preserving a very important part of the past. Actually there were three prehistoric cultures there. The rock art tell us that – there are 3 three different styles there.”

Though Rasmussen is thrilled that the rock art at Hedgpeth Hills is safe, she has a broader dream. “I would like to save every archeological site in the world. It’s a great loss to see houses constructed on any land that might have archaeological information. We always learn more about prehistoric cultures when any excavation is going on. We never stop learning.”

One way to save the past is to give it to the future. For Rasmussen, that means teaching the younger generations about rock art and its significance.

“It’s the children,” she said. “I love working with the children, helping them learn respect for these archaeological sites.”