Archaeological survey of ancestral Pueblo sites

From April 16-22, 2017,  we joined an archaeological survey group (sponsored by Road Scholar) in the Four Corners area (where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico come together) to look for artifacts associated with various ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) peoples. The survey involved stumbling up hills and down creek beds, and tripping over logs and sagebrush bushes, to search for pottery sherds and hand tools. Our group consisted of 11 people from all over the United States. We all had a lot of fun!

Dick and I have done similar trips in 2014 (cataloging and repackaging artifacts) and 2016 (hiking to ruins). We do enjoy hiking in scenic places and preserving history. And if you can do both in the same trip, so much the better!

During the week we stayed at Kelly Place, a bed and breakfast near Cortez, Colorado. They have wonderful food, a fascinating library, and a cat named Cookie Dough, who meows to be petted.

The archaeological survey

The survey took place on private property in the Dolores, Colorado, area. Two groups of about 6 people each spread out in a line and “transected” several predetermined plots of land, flagging relevant items as we walked. We wrote up the areas that were “thick” with artifacts, in preparation for a detailed scientific paper to be written at some point in the future. The data and papers will be made available to researchers on the Internet.

Vans parked in the survey area
Vans parked in the survey area
Anna holding survey flags
Anna holding survey flags
Our trip leader, Diane, holding a mano (grinding tool)
Our trip leader, Diane, holding a mano (grinding tool)
Diane holding a Mancos Black-On-White
Diane holding a Mancos Black-On-White sherd from about 1000 A.D.
The cactus wasn't quite in bloom yet, but the lupines were spectacular
The cactuses weren’t quite in bloom yet, but the lupines were spectacular

Education, inspiration, and entertainment

We had several daytime and evening events that contributed to our knowledge of the area, our surveying task of the week, and our understanding of Native American cultures. Examples are illustrated in the pictures below.

Helen, her sister, Wanda, and Wanda's husband, Aldean, standing with Anna and Dick
Helen, her sister, Wanda, and Wanda’s husband, Aldean, standing with Anna and Dick. Wanda and Helen danced, and Aldean played his flutes.
Dick doing the Bear Dance with Wanda
Dick doing the Bear Dance with Wanda
Pottery sherd and notes from our training session on Monday
Pottery sherd and notes from our training session on Monday
One of the kivas at Kelly Place
Restored kiva at Kelly Place

Ute Mountain Tribal Park

On Friday we drove south of Cortez to Ute tribal land that can be visited only with a guide. Our guide, Ritchie, took us to see artifacts, rock art, and cliff dwellings, which required the descent and ascent of ladders and a two-mile hike along the cliff face.

Travel vans in the Ute Tribal Park
Travel vans in the Ute Mountain Tribal Park
Sherd collection
Sherd collection
Sherd collection
Sherd collection
Rock art
Rock art
Our Ute guide, Ritchie, explaining the creation story
Our Ute guide, Ritchie, explaining the creation story (the Earth was created by Grandmother spider, whose web he is pointing out)
Canyon containing cliff dwellings
Canyon on Ute land south of Mesa Verde containing cliff dwellings
Cliff dwellings
Cliff dwellings
Anna going up the ladder to the cliff dwellings
Anna going up the ladder to some of the cliff dwellings
Corn cobs and other artifacts
Corn cobs and other artifacts from the cliff dwellings
Buttes in Ute Mountain Tribal Park
Buttes in Ute Mountain Tribal Park