Posts Tagged 'Lindenmeier Archaeological Site'

On the Discovery Docket: A Darwinian Theory of Beauty

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

With the season of gift giving upon us, I find myself surrounded by advertisements for “beautiful” things. A diamond necklace, a new car, a flat screen television: all these objects ultimately end up being called “beautiful.” This somewhat cavalier use of the term “beauty” over such a broad spectrum of objects leads me to wonder about the real meaning of the word. What is beautiful, and how do we know?

Dennis Dutton, a professor of Philosophy at the University of Cantebury in New Zealand and the editor of Arts & Letters Daily, has an idea for an answer. What is beauty? Dutton argues that it’s a core part of our human nature – one with deep evolutionary origins that began before we even had the ability to speak.

In his fascinating and wonderfully illustrated Ted Talk, “A Darwinian Theory of Beauty,” Dutton explores the idea of a universal understanding of beauty. According to Dutton, it is possible to discover an evolutionary history of our artistic and aesthetic tastes, and to see how what we presently call beautiful is the result of millennia of influence from the environments our ancestors lived in and the situations they encountered.

My favorite part of Dutton’s talk is his discussion of Acheulian hand axes. Teardrop-shaped stone tools made 1.4 million years ago and found throughout Europe, Asia and Africa, Dutton argues that these are tools that became the first known works of art, functioning as sexually selective fitness signals of skill and intelligence the way a male peacock displays his feathers.

The next time you come to the museum, be sure to stop by our exhibit on the Lindenmeier Archaeolgical Site and look at the display of artifacts. It’s easy to look at the artifacts as stone tools: a projectile point, a knife, a scraper. It’s much more awe inspiring, however, to also look at the artifacts as works of art and things of beauty. You’ll be surprised just how much your perspective changes.

So, is anyone planning on giving a hand axe to someone special this year?

Read a transcript of Dutton’s talk here.

One Veteran Remembered

by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education

The Museum published a booklet, The Excavation of Lindenmeier, earlier this year. I researched the section on the “camp life” of the young men that worked on the Smithsonian-led excavations in the 1930s. Most of those young men, in their twenties when they worked on the site, also served in World War II: Jim Greenacre, John Cotter, Charles “Chili” Scoggin, and C.T.R. Bohannon, to name just a few.

Bohannon had an intriguing military career. Remember by Cotter (who received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during the landing at Normandy) as a “real long rifle” and “Western toughie,” Bohannon was an officer who survived the Bataan Death March in the Philippines.

Prior to World War II, the Philippines were American-controlled. The Japanese invaded the Philippines on December 8, 1941, just 10 hours after the attacking Pearl Harbor, and occupied the country from 1942–1945.

The Japanese aerial bombardment had damaged the American Asiatic Fleet, forcing General MacArthur to retreat. Reinforcements and resupply were impossible given the condition of the fleet there and in Pearl Harbor, leaving the American and Filipino defenders vulnerable and without needed supplies.

After the three-month Battle of Bataan, the remaining American and Filipino defenders surrendered on April 9, 1942. The Japanese forced 76,000 prisoners of war on a 61-mile march to relocate them. Many of these defenders were sick and starving.

The Bataan Death March is recognized as a crime of war. It lasted a week, with the captives forced to march continuously in the tropical heat. An estimated 7,000-10,000 people died on the March, and many thousands more died from the effects of the march while held in prisoner of war camps in San Fernando. Survivors of the March recount horrors that are stomach turning. I often wonder about the fortitude and courage required of “Bo,” as he was known, to survive that torture. I also am awed that he managed to escape the Japanese and join forces with native Filipinos to fight behind the lines against the Japanese.

After his experiences in the Philippines, Bohannon went on to become an expert in guerilla and counter-guerilla warfare for the U.S. Military. He co-wrote a book with Napoleon D. Valeriano in 1962 entitled Counter-Guerrilla Operations: The Philippine Experience. That book was reprinted in 2006 and is still used in military training.

Today, please remember to thank a vet. It’s difficult sometimes to imagine what they have been through to protect freedom.

New Lindenmeier resource

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

The folks at Beet Street (our Fort Collins community arts and cultural organization) wrote a great blog post yesterday about a visit to Soapstone Prairie Natural Area (SPNA). They very kindly gave a shout-out to the Museum’s recently published booklet, “The Excavation of Lindenmeier: A Folsom Site Uncovered 1934-1940.” The booklet is a great resource if you’d like to know the in-depth story of this amazing archaeological site, from discovery through excavation. Although the site itself is not accessible to the public, you can visit the Lindenmeier Overlook at SPNA and get a great view of one of the most important early  human habitation sites in North America.

I feel a little sheepish because we put a great deal of work into producing the booklet, and I have neglected to talk about it here on the blog! So, thank you to Beet Street’s post for giving me a reminder. The Lindenmeier booklet was part of a Preserve America grant that the Museum received in 2008. We had received our first Preserve America grant in 2006, which allowed us to conduct an extensive oral history project, interviewing over 40 people with ties to Soapstone Prairie; we produced a short video and a research report as part of that grant. For the second grant, we produced another video (“Meeting in the Center with Respect”), the Lindenmeier booklet, and a web-based cultural heritage tour guide (which will be launching soon).

Soapstone Prairie, and the Lindenmeier Site in particular, are very dear to our hearts at the Museum. We have the largest public collection of Lindenmeier artifacts outside of the Smithsonian Institution, with a fine assortment of Folsom points, scrapers, awls, and other tools on exhibit in our gallery. In 2000 we put on a major exhibition called “Dig It!” which provided a detailed look at the excavation. This story will also play a prominent role in our new museum. The story of Lindenemeier is a national treasure, and it’s right in our backyard.

The Lindenmeier booklet is available, free of charge, in our Museum Store. If you can’t swing by to pick up a copy, you can also download a PDF of the booklet from the Museum’s website. I will echo Beet Street’s blog and say, learn a little about Lindenmeier, and then get up to Soapstone. And prepared to be awed!

Folsom points from the Lindenemeier Archaeological Site on exhibit at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center

Behind the scenes: Curator of Cultural Interpretation

Next in our series of behind-the-scenes looks at what makes the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center tick, the roving More to Explore reporter ambushed interviewed Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation and frequent contributor to this blog. Part I of a two-parter.

Curator Katie Bowell (in ball cap) leading an interpretive program at the Lindenmeier overlook, Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. Photo courtesy City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Program

More to Explore: What does a Curator of Cultural Interpretation do?

Katie Bowell:  My primary job is to be the liaison between the Museum and the City’s Natural Areas Program, and so I help to interpret the historical and cultural stories of our natural spaces. And I also help bring biology, ecology, and other natural processes into the interpretations we’re doing in our museum. Since I’ve been here I’ve also helped develop a variety of interpretive resources, and I work on the Digital Media team and have a lot of fun with our blog and our website and Facebook. So I get to do a little bit of everything, but the main focus in almost everything that I do is still that intersection between history, culture, nature, and science, how to create interdisciplinary narratives and interpretations. It’s really interesting, I haven’t done anything like this before and when I mention what I do to most people, usually they’re surprised, and then they think it’s really cool.

MtE: What are some of the projects you’ve been working on?

KB:  The very first thing that I did when I got here was to work on the Soapstone Prairie project, which had been something that the Museum and the Natural Areas department and the City of Fort Collins had been working on for a couple years before I got here. It’s an incredible shortgrass prairie property, and on it was the Lindenmeier Archaeological Site, one of the largest Folsom-complex sites in all of North America and one of the most diverse in terms of the artifacts found there and the people who lived there. And this is where the Museum-Natural Areas partnership really started, working on the Soapstone project. Mmy first job was to help develop the interpretation up there. So we have interpretive panels, and we have volunteer-led programs that go on all summer long, and in our first summer I think it may have been the most visitors to programs that they had at a natural area—somebody told me that, but I don’t know for sure. And so it’s been very successful. I’ve worked on that, and I worked on the Lindenmeier booklet [recently published by the Museum], and did a whole bunch of interpretations with Natural Areas. We re-did interpretive panels and developed a booklet for Bobcat Ridge Natural Area, focusing on the pioneer and early European history of the property, and interpreted some of the buildings that are still there.

One of the things that I’m really proud of is our blog. I have loved being a contributor to it, and it’s so fun. It’s a great way for me to keep learning too, because along with writing about things that I know, I’ll hear something on the news that I don’t have a background in and half an hour later I have just enough knowledge to be dangerous, and I get to write about it.

I also do training with Natural Areas staff. One of the things that the Museum is very passionate about is that if you’re going to interpret history, if you’re going to interpret people, that you do it with care and consideration,  respect for the stories you’re telling and the people they’re about, and with as much accuracy as you possibly can. So we’ve had great cultural training sessions with Natural Areas staff, so now the people out there are not only fabulous interpreters of biology and ecology but are great interpreters of history too. I’ve given a couple of presentations throughout the state on how to do this as well, for Colorado Open Spaces and even the Colorado Preservation Society, so we’ve gone to people who normally interpret nature and said, how can you add history to this?, and we’ve gone to people who interpret history and say, how can you add some nature and biology to this? And so we keep smushing everything together.

Since I’ve started here, the last year and a half, I’ve gotten to learn the history of Colorado and western America. I’ve been really immersed in learning about the native cultures we work with and their histories, and getting really a much broader and more interesting perspective on our experience here in northern Colorado than I would have ever thought about, I think, if I had lived here and just continued to be a biologist. So I love that part of my job is that I get to keep learning all the time.

“A place is a story happening many times”

by Brent Carmack, Assistant Director, and Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

One goal of every museum is to provide opportunities for visitors to make connections between what they see and learn at the museum with their own personal stories. A new opportunity to make those connections at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center went up a few months ago in conjunction with the opening of the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area.

One of the most impressive things about Soapstone is simply the vast landscape that overwhelms you when you visit that place. To know that people have lived and thrived on that beautiful, harsh, sometimes unforgiving landscape for over 12,000 years can be humbling and inspiring. For the people who lived there, that landscape was a part of their identities. For most folks, their own personal landscape helps define who they are and how they view the world.

At the Museum we give people a chance to learn more about the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and its history, but we are also interested in learning about our visitors’ own stories. We posed a thought and a question to our visitors and gave them the opportunity to tell us a little about themselves.

“A place is a story happening many times.”  What place tells your story, and why?

This simple question has generated tons of responses, some funny, some sad, some whimsical, others simple. Responses come from all ages and several languages. Each response shares a little something of themselves, a gift to others who might read their story. Each response is an opportunity for further connection with the Museum and a chance for a little reflective thought—all goals of any museum experience.

Visitor's responses to the question, What place tells your story, and why?

Visitor's responses to the question, What place tells your story, and why?

We’ve collected some of our favorite responses and put them together in an interactive VoiceThread slideshow. Take a look at what some of our visitors have shared with us. The slideshow will advance automatically, or you can use the large arrow buttons in the lower corners to move forward and backward at your own pace.

We would love to hear from you, too — you can participate in this project even if you can’t come to the Museum. Here’s how:

  1. You can add your comment to any of the messages in the slideshow by clicking the “Comment” button at the lower edge of the slideshow frame. You’ll see that a couple of us have posted some comments ourselves. You can type your comment, or record a spoken comment and upload it to the slideshow. You’ll need to register for a VoiceThread account to do this, but it’s easy (really! Just your name, email address, and password) and free (bonus!).
  2. The very last slide in the show is where you can add your own story of place. Again, you can type in your comment or record it and upload it.

Or — you don’t have to respond at all, just pause for a moment and ponder the meaning of place to you.

(But we’d be delighted if you did respond!)

History and the 23rd Century

by Toby Swaford, K-12 Education Coordinator

Learning about local and state history has become a full time job and something of a passion for me over the last few years. While it’s always rewarding to use the knowledge that one acquires, it’s usually the most fun when applied in a surprising or unexpected way. Having recently purchased the first season of the original Star Trek series on Blu-ray (power to the geek, my brothers) I identified two instances of Colorado history in two consecutive episodes, guaranteeing my status as King Nerd of the Sofa for at least one more evening.

The first episode in question is the Spock-centric “Galileo Seven.” That’s the one in which Spock, Scotty, Dr. McCoy, and a few characters we’ve never seen before, crash-land their shuttlecraft on a mysterious fog-shrouded planet. Following standard Starfleet regulations, the main cast stays behind to repair the ship, while the guys in the red shirts wander off to show the audience exactly how the monster works. You know who I’m talking about, they usually get lines like, “Captain, over here, I’ve found some…aarrrrrgghh!”

In this particular case, what the red-shirts discover are 12-foot tall, humanoid creatures that end up terrorizing (and occasionally killing) members of the crew by lobbing spears the size of telephone poles from somewhere just off camera. While everyone else is busy panicking (and occasionally dying), Spock calmly analyzes the lethal projectiles noting that the stone tips are similar to Folsom points. This is the point (no pun intended) at which I really got my geek on.

You see, Folsom points are an important part of our local history here in Fort Collins. Named in 1926 in Folsom, New Mexico, this type of stone point was first found by amateur archaeologists in 1924 at the Lindenmeier dig site, located just north of Fort Collins. These points and other stone tools belonging to what is collectively known as the Folsom culture help establish human occupation in North America dating back to the last Ice Age, some 10,000 to 15,000 years ago.

Incidentally, the Fort Collins Museum features one of the most extensive collections of Folsom technology in the world, including items such as points, drills, and gravers.

The function of some of these tools has been determined: points were hafted onto spears or other projectiles for hunting, drills were used for placing holes into bone and other material. What gravers were used for remains a mystery, although several theories exist — including that the fine, sharp point on a graver could be used to decorate skins. Precisely whose skin has yet to be determined — both the application of pigments to animal hide and the scarification of human flesh have been suggested.  

By the time I finished my explanation of Folsom culture, the shuttlecraft had safely returned to its docking bay aboard the Enterprise, and it was time for the next episode, “The Squire of Gothos.” The Squire in question is an almost omnipotent being named Trelane, who pulls members of the starship crew down to his planet to provide him with companionship and entertainment. Though he views humans as a primitive, predatory species, Trelane is none the less well versed in human history — especially the darker chapters involving warfare.

His knowledge also seemingly extends to ancient legal systems, and Trelane dons a judge’s wig as he holds trial against an uncooperative Captain Kirk. It is during this scene that Trelane sentences Kirk “to hang by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead!” This is the same sentence handed down by Judge M.B. Gerry to the notorious Colorado cannibal known as Alferd Packer.

Of course, it was soon after I pointed out this latest tidbit of information that I found myself abandoned on the sofa. Alas, King Nerd rules a lonely domain.

Flintknapping: so easy — ?!

by Lesley Drayton,  Local History Archive Curator

The rock chips flew on Friday night as a group of spectators at the Museum were treated to a fascinating discussion and demonstration of flintknapping by Bob Patten, a world-renowned maker of stone tools who specializes in replicating the fluted Folsom point. This Museum After-Hours event was designed to help whet people’s appetites for the grand opening of the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area on Saturday, where Bob also gave a flintknapping demonstration.

I was very excited to meet Bob Patten. He’s a rock star (pun intended) when it comes to Clovis and Folsom archaeology, and I knew I’d like him after reading the words of caution on the back cover of his book Old Tools- New Eyes: A Primal Primer of Flintknapping: “Warning! Material contained in this book has been known to cause some individuals to become obsessive devotees of the art of flintknapping. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.”

Well, proceed we did. Bob laid out a drop cloth to catch all the debitage (the little bits of rock chips and flakes that fly off when knapping a tool) and donned a pair of “prehistoric spats,” which were small leather coverings for his ankles and shoes to keep sharp pieces of flint and chert from settling into his socks.

Flintknapping has a great audible quality. Each blow of the hammer stone brings a sharp shattering sound, and then the retouching with the antlers gives out a series of satisfying crunches. We were hearing a slice of what life sounded like at Folsom campsites 12,000 years ago.

Bob’s flintknapping demonstration illustrated the incredible amount of practice, planning, and skill Folsom people would have needed to craft tools and not just survive, but thrive in this high plains environment. His demonstration also got me thinking about everyday life for Paleoindians at the Lindenmeier site. I could imagine the distant past and the sound of flintknapping blending with the murmur of conversation, mixing together across gusts of Northern Colorado wind.

Bob Patten talks about the intricacies flintknapping

Bob Patten talks about the intricacies of flintknapping

Bob Patten talks about different types of stone used to make tools

Bob Patten talks about different types of stone used to make tools

Tools of the flint knapping trade

Tools of the flintknapping trade

Hammer stone in hand, Bob prepares to strike a flake off a chert core

Hammer stone in hand, Bob prepares to strike a flake off a chert core

The bumper sticker on Bob's car says it all!

The bumper sticker on Bob's car says it all!

We still learn from Lindenmeier

by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education

(Ed. note: why all the talk about Lindenmeier this week? We’re celebrating the opening this Saturday of the City of Fort Collins’ newest natural area, Soapstone Prairie, in which the Lindenmeier site is located. It’s the first chance in a very long time for people to see this place, and a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the lengthy heritage of people in northern Colorado. If you’re a real Folsom fan, join us at the Museum at 5:00 this Friday for a  demonstration by flint knapper extraordinaire Bob Patten.)

Many people want to know when new excavations will happen at Lindenmeier. At this point, none are anticipated, but the exciting thing about archaeology is that improvements in technology as well as the recognition of biases in earlier studies mean archaeologists can still learn about a site even without new excavations. This is important because archaeological sites are non-renewable resources. Once they are excavated, they are gone. New technology and new techniques will increase the evidence and information gleaned at a site but only if portions of the site remain to be investigated later. In many ways, the best thing we can do for the Lindenmeier Site is preserve it so that future generations of archaeologists with technologies we can’t even imagine can study it, perhaps in ways that don’t destroy the site in the process.  The bummer for us living now is, as one archaeologist who worked at Lindenmeier as a young man said, “we can’t live long enough to see how some of this turns out.” That archaeologist was Dr. John L. Cotter, who passed away in 1999.

Some of the things archaeologists can do with artifacts already excavated from Lindenmeier include use-wear analysis and trace element analysis. Researchers can identify through microscopes whether marks left on stone tools were caused by bone or other stone, or conversely, marks left on bone were caused by stone or other bones (like teeth leaving marks). This can indicate if animals were butchered by people or gnawed by animals. I’m anxiously waiting for an archaeologist to perform a use-wear analysis on the eyes of Paleoindian bone needles to determine wear marks caused by fiber thread versus sinew. Archaeologists performing trace-element analysis can find microscopic residues of everything from plant material to blood on stone and bone tools. Archaeologists also do a lot of experimentation, attempting to make and use tools comparable to those uncovered during excavations. This is called experimental archaeology and can be used to answer questions that straight excavation cannot. For example, some archaeology students at CSU made their own stone tools and butchered a bison with them to learn more about the hide and meat processing methods that Paleoindians might have practiced.

Other important work for archaeologists is the re-interpretation of ideas formed in previous decades by earlier generations of archaeologists. We all have biases and sometimes it is only the passage of time that brings them to light. For example, most Paleoindian sites are bison kill and butchering sites. George Frison, an emeritus archaeology professor from Wyoming, once said that archaeologists have been “charmed” by the bone beds of the giant bison. This is partly because massive bison bones survive in the archaeological record, whereas small bones and other organic remains (hides, plant fiber baskets, wood) do not. Archaeologists became focused on developing theories of bison hunting by the Paleoindians to the exclusion of other things because they had the evidence to study. But this does lead to very obvious example of bias in interpretation: with the assumption (validated by ethnography) that men did the hunting, there is little mention of Paleoindian women and children.

This bias was very evident in the 1930s media coverage of Lindenmeier’s “Folsom Man.” I think we all know that those men could not have been here without the women, and they didn’t spring fully-formed from someone’s forehead either! Through ethnographic studies of bison-hunting historic Plains tribes, we know a great deal about the work of women in these tribes, yet none of this is extrapolated for early interpretations about the Paleoindians of Lindenmeier (although much is extrapolated from pre-horse Plains tribe bison hunting as written about by the first Spaniards on the continent in the 1500s and applied to ideas about Paleoindian hunting of bison). For example, scrapers are women’s tools in the historic Plains tribes. Scrapers make up a huge percentage of the stone tools recovered at Lindenmeier. We may be getting a very good look at Paleoindian WOMEN from Lindenmeier, pushing our ideas about these people way beyond the “Folsom Man the Hunter” mystique created by the media.   

It is partly for these reasons that Lindenmeier continues to inform us even though the last excavation season there was the summer of 1940.

Popular imagining of "Folsom Man," from a 1947 Rocky Mountain Empire magazine article about Lindenmeier

Popular imagining of "Folsom Man," from a 1947 Rocky Mountain Empire magazine article about Lindenmeier

(For more information about the opening weekend of Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and neighboring Red Mountain Open Space and the scheduled events and festivities, please see Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space Grand Opening Details Announced.)

Why is the Lindenmeier Archaeological Site important?

by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education

Often times at the Museum I hear the question, “So what’s so important about Lindenmeier?” It’s a valid question. It’s been almost 70 years since any extensive excavations occurred there. You’d think that other archaeological investigations at other sites in the last few decades would have filled the gaps in our knowledge about Paleoindians, to the point of making Lindenmeier’s discoveries obsolete. Point in fact, Lindenmeier is still the place where many of those knowledge gaps might be filled, someday in the distant future. But to me, that isn’t why Lindenmeier is special.

First, let’s consider that this was a gathering place for human beings over 10, 000 years ago. Ten. Thousand. Years. Five times longer than the time since Christ!  If you spent a million dollars a day since Paleoindians occupied Lindenmeier, you would have just enough ($3.65 trillion) to cover the stimulus package (not accounting for inflation), just to put that into a meaningful analogy for our times. If the age is not enough to amaze you, consider that to date archaeologists have identified only about 100 places in ALL OF NORTH AMERICA that are this old and contain the same type of projectile point, known as the Folsom point, as discovered at Lindenmeier.

But maybe those facts don’t move you … maybe 100 sites sounds like a lot to you. Would it matter to know that of those 100 sites, most are about the size of half a basketball court?¹ The 100 known Folsom sites take up about .000000001% of the land in North America. In layman terms, that means Folsom complex sites are few and far between. And lucky you, if you live in Fort Collins, one lies practically in your own backyard.

So we’ve established that Folsom Paleoindian sites are special because they are very rare and pretty small. And yet Lindenmeier is still even more special than those other 99 North American sites for several reasons. First, it is significantly larger than the “typical” Folsom complex site, spreading about a ½ mile across the landscape (at least, what’s known of the site). Second, Lindenmeier is considered a winter-season living site for the Paleoindians. The other sites are mostly bison kill and butchering sites. Finally, very few, if any, of those other Folsom complex sites have preserved the diversity of artifacts that Lindenmeier yielded, likely because it was a seasonal home, not a one-time bison processing site. Artifacts preserved at Lindenmeier includes etched bone; bone needles with delicate eyes; shell and bone beads; scrapers, gravers, awls and drills of stone and bone; red ochre; and the list goes on.

Because of this diversity of artifacts, Lindenmeier humanized the Paleoindians, opening archaeologists up to much more progressive thinking about these ancient people. At the time of the discoveries, the 1930s, most artists working for the media let their imaginations run wild with caveman stereotypes: can you say “Ugh!”? My favorite artist’s rendering of a Paleoindian is that of a half-naked, wild-eyed “Folsom woman” wearing only a shaggy, bison fur bikini bottom.  Come on, folks! The people of Lindenmeier had fine bone needles, enormous hides from the giant extinct bison, Bison antiquus, and lived during the end of the Pleistocene Ice Age. Potential cultural differences in modesty and acclimation to the weather aside, I really believe the Paleoindians tailored themselves some pretty amazing clothes and shoes. I think the effort that goes into making a bone needle warrants some snazzy outfits. I know this for a fact because as an undergraduate archaeology student I tried making a needle by filing a bone fragment down to a point against a slab of sandstone. I’m still not done with it.

Cast of a Folsom-era bone needle

Cast of a Folsom-era bone needle

The infamous bison fur bikini graces this harried Folsom woman

The infamous bison fur bikini graces this harried Folsom woman

Lindenmeier is still important. And beginning this weekend, with the grand opening of the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, you can see the Lindenmeier Site for yourself — it’s worth the journey to see this place and imagine the hundreds of generations of people who lived on its landscape.

¹Jason LaBelle, Colorado State University archaeologist, Soapstone Prairie Natural Area Oral History Project interview, September 20, 2006.

A view of the Lindenmeier arroyo, Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, Colorado

A view of the Lindenmeier arroyo, Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, Colorado

Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain: 12,000+ years in the making, and less than a month to go!

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

June 6th is a pretty impressive day. According to Wikipedia (which has never steered me wrong), many an important thing has happened on the June 6ths of the past. Some milestones include:

1523: Gustavus I becomes King of Sweden

1850: Levi Strauss makes his first pair of blue jeans

1916: East Cleveland voters approve women’s suffrage

1944: D-Day

1962: The Beatles meet producer George Martin

In just less than one month, another milestone will be added to June 6th’s roster: the openings of Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space and, trust me, they’re right up there with getting to wear denim and knowing who the walrus is. You should be bubbling over with excitement by now. Here’s why:

In 2004, the City of Fort Collins purchased over 18,000 acres of shortgrass prairie, foothills, shrubland, cliffs and rock outcrops, wetlands and springs 25 miles north of Fort Collins near the Wyoming border, now know as Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. The same year, Larimer County purchased 15,000 acres of adjoining foothills and woodlands, now known as Red Mountain Open Space, creating over 30,000 acres of protected prairie and foothills. The properties are, in the truest sense of the word, awesome.

A wide variety of animals and plants make their homes at Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain, including elk, pronghorn, swift fox, black bears, mountain lions, golden eagles, burrowing owls, the Colorado blue butterfly, the butterfly plant (no longer found anywhere else in Larimer County), mountain mahogany and ponderosa pines woodlands. There’s also some mighty impressive geology happening on the sites, including the Cheyenne Ridge, which is the upper edge of the Denver Basin, and the Big Hole (trust me, it’s more than just a hole).

Both properties also have an incredible human history. Soapstone Prairie is home to the famous Lindenmeier Archaeological Site, a National Historic Landmark, that’s recognized worldwide as one of the most well-preserved and extensive Folsom culture occupation sites in North America. The site dates from around 12,000 years ago and was excavated in the 1930s by the Smithsonian and the Colorado Museum of Natural History (now the Denver Museum of Nature & Science). Archaeological work on both Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain demonstrates an extensive and diverse human history – from PaleoIndians of the Ice Age, to millennia of American Indian groups, to more than a century of homesteaders and sheep and cattle ranchers.

Perhaps the most exciting element of both properties is, come June 6th, 2009, we get to experience them for ourselves. When Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain open, miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, along with a variety of public programs on the history, ecology and geology of the area will be available to everyone.

Over the coming weeks, check back to learn more about what makes these properties so special. If you can’t wait even that long, these links may sate you for the time being:

Soapstone Prairie Natural Area

“Speaking History,” The Soapstone Prairie Oral History Project

Map of Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain

Soapstone Prairie Program Guide

Red Mountain Open Space

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soapstone's beautiful rolling shortgrass prairie

Soapstone's beautiful rolling shortgrass prairie


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