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Canyonlands of Southeast Colorado Archaeological Field Program

In 2019 members of Otero’s STEM faculty established a long term archaeological field research project for the region. The Canyonlands of Southeast Colorado Archaeological (COSEC) Field Program began with an archaeological field school and survey work at a rockshelter sitealong the Chacuaco Creek basin in Las Animas County.The site was located on ranch property that was at the time owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy. This aspect of the project initially focused on the Medina Rockshelter, which was occupied by Native American groups by at least 7000 BCE. Dr. Robert Campbell conducted the first scientific archeological investigations at Medina in the 1960s, proving that the Medina site was extremely important for Colorado Archaeologists due to its pristine preservation of organic materials. Campbell’s excavations indicated the earliest evidence of human occupation began in the Archaic period (approximately 7000 years ago).

In 2019 our team of researchers from Otero College returned to Chaucaco Creek for three weeks to expand on Campbell’s work. Materials from both the original and most recent field work resulted in a number of lithic, faunal, and wooden artifacts, and numerous ecofacts – such as maize, squash, and wild plum seeds. Through our work in 2019, we were able to distinguish a domestic/kitchen area from a lithic workstation, as well as a number of rock art panels and additional rock shelter sites in the basin.

While we are still continuing our research in the area, due to restrictions imposed by the COVID pandemic, and the sale of the property where the Medina site is located, Otero researchers have expanded our interest in the region to surrounding river tributaries, mesas, and canyons located within an hours drive of Otero’s campus.

Our work includes site documentation, aerial reconnaissance, collection of oral histories, historical research and partnerships with local ranchers in order to locate, describe and map archaeological sites and rock art.

If you have any questions about our work within the Canyonlands, the Medina Site, or any archaeological remains in the surrounding area, please contact either Mark Korbitz (mark.korbitz@ojc.edu) or Dr. Kimberly Munro (Kimberly.munro@ojc.edu) to learn about our field research program.

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