Monday, May 17, 2021

A Colorado Time Capsule

We've had a lot of cool weather and rain and snow showers this spring but on a warmer day last week, my community's historical society had our first outing of 2021, to visit some sites that are literally almost in our own backyard.



The Colorado Archaeological Society conducted 33 archaeological digs in our community, Ken-Caryl Ranch, beginning in 1973. Our resident archeologist explained that the study identified five distinct periods of occupation of ancient people in our area including two from the Archaic period and three from the Plains Woodland period. The investigations uncovered artifacts such as pottery, projectile points, and hide scrapers. The people were hunters and gatherers with little knowledge of farming since no farming tools were found. The area above is close to a creek so a water source was available and the hogback mountain formations allow for good lookouts for both wildlife and possible enemies.



Our community, and others along with nearby areas of the Colorado Front Range also have large red rock formations.  These south and west-facing rock outcrops of the Fountain and Lyons Formations captured the sun’s warmth and provided shelter. Quartz, granite, and petrified wood were available for toolmaking. Wild plums and chokecherries lined the nearby creeks, which attracted wildlife. All of these factors made this area well used by ancient peoples.




In 2009 two young resident boys stumbled across a mastodon mandible (see above) in another creek in our community that had been uncovered by floodwaters. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science reported that it was the best example of a mastodon ever found in Colorado to that date, and could be 50,000 to 150,000 years old! Further investigation uncovered a tusk as well.  

Discoveries of the bones of Mammoths, camels, horses, and bison have also been discovered nearby at Lamb Springs Archeological Preserve in Littleton, Colorado. You can read about our visit to that interesting site here.   Recently, during an Interstate 70 construction re-route project near Denver, the remains of a prehistoric fossilized camel were found!



Do you remember my blog post "The Secrets Beneath Our Feet" about the archeological dig that was conducted on a foothill in our community in October of 2020? You can click on the highlighted link to read more about it if you missed that post.


Another archeologist who lived in our community happened to find a mano--which is an ancient tool used to grind food by hand--on a trail in that foothill. I'm sure I would have walked right past this stone, but he knew what it was right away. Upon further investigation, he saw that there was an area nearby that had eroded a bit and which contained a large amount of blackened soil that meant it may have been a fire pit at one time. After telling our historical society about this find we decided to have an official archeological dig done. The archeologists removed a lot of soil and small artifacts in the layers they uncovered for analysis and carbon dating. 

The report came back recently and this is what our historical  society archeologist excitedly wrote to us in an e-mail:
"The site yielded a carbon date of some burned tuber from the roasting oven at AD 133-324! This date of almost 2,000 years ago was when Romans still ruled the Mediterranean world, the Classic Maya were just getting going, the Anasazi were still in primitive pit houses, and before the Christian New Testament Canon was formed! It is at what archaeologists call the end of the Late Archaic Era and the beginning of the Ceramic Era."

This was not the first archeological dig that we witnessed. In 2014 we were invited to one in a cave area in another county which also led to interesting discoveries, including a spearhead that was 8,000 years old! You can see that post here. 


All of Colorado is rich in ancient artifacts and there have been many serendipitous discoveries of ancient tools such as the Mahaffy Cache that we saw on display at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Museum of Natural History exhibit.  You can read about the discovery of this large amount of ancient stone tools found buried in a garden on this post.



Stegosaurus dinosaur tracks

Even older evidence of life can be found in our area. The Morrison Formation, named for the town of Morrison to the north of Ken-Caryl Ranch, is notable for the number of dinosaur fossils that have been found. Giant reptiles roamed this region for a few million years until the seas again returned to form the beaches of the Dakota Sandstone, 100 million years ago. Evidence of the dinosaurs walking these preserved ripple marked beaches can be seen in Dinosaur Ridge National Historic Site. Dinosaur footprints and bones are preserved there in stone. I blogged about this historic site here and here.  


A dinosaur exhibit in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Construction sites in Colorado have also unearthed rare torosaurus dinosaur bones and a triceratops dinosaur in recent years. There have been many other dinosaur discoveries made in Colorado, and they are on display throughout the state. You can see a list of where to see these dinosaurs and fossil sites on this Colorado.com link.

It is certainly interesting to take a look back into time and think about all the forms of life that lived in our area from the dinosaurs to ancient civilizations to more recent Native Americans, pioneers, and now us as suburbanites. I wonder what traces our era will leave behind for future generations to discover?


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29 comments:

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Pat

It is great you are able to get out and enjoy this outing in your community. The exhibits are just amazing. I can imagine how all the findings must have been exciting, especially the mastodon mandible and dinosaur bones. The view and sky in the first photo is gorgeous.

Take care, have a happy new week!

Penny from Enjoying The Simple Things said...

You live in an amazing place. In the first picture the sky is so blue and the clouds so white!

Barbara Rogers said...

I have often wondered the same thing...since most of our technology won't really stand up to time for future archeologists. Lots of bathroom furnishing will...so we shall be known as the plumbing culture probably!

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

This is all pretty cool that so much life happened where you live so long ago.

As kids in central Utah, hiking through the desert, we would find arrowheads, spear points, and manos every once in a while sitting on top of the ground. In the woods we would find pottery shards every now and then.

Janice said...

Such interesting finds!

Meditations in Motion said...

I would love to go on an archeological dig sometime. There is so much to see and do right in your own backyard! A little bit farther afield is Dinosaur National Monument. I want to visit there the next time we are in Colorado. Our son and his family have camped near there and really enjoyed it.

Taken For Granted said...

Archeology is endlessly fascinating. My friend, Adrian, an Archeologist, has excavated a Mammoth kill site in SD that is one of only a half dozen Mammoth butcher sites known. The bones show butcher marks and stone tools (Clovis points, and scrapers) were found with the bones.

stevebethere said...

What an interesting post love the photos too

Have a capsuletastic week 👍

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

This is a fun post with lovely photos and great info

NCSue said...

You had a fascinating visit - glad you shared it with us at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2021/05/i-can-fly.html

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

It is all so interesting. Finding out about how these ancient civilizations cooked and ate and just lived their daily lives makes it all so much more real.

Lydia C. Lee said...

Wow!! So lucky to be able to do this! #BlueMonday

William Kendall said...

Fascinating! Beautiful landscapes.

Ruth Hiebert said...

You have such lovely scenery around your area. Looks like you had a perfect day to be outside.

Angie said...

Pat - boy, that expands my definition of a time capsule! I suppose "old objects" are always interesting to future generations, but somehow I can't imagine that finding an old cell phone or an IPod will have quite the same cachet as dinosaur bones or arrowheads!! I could be wrong! Thanks for bringing this wonderful bit of history to everyone at Mosaic Monday!

bill burke said...

It's always fascinating to discover items from an earlier time period. Glad you could go out with a local group, sounds like fun. Lovely photos, thanks for sharing.

Donna @ Modern on Monticello said...

How exciting to discover new histories and artifacts. So glad to see you were able to get out again and enjoy it. Thanks for sharing. #HomeMattersParty

ellen b. said...

So much to discover in your own backyard. How nice to have these resources in your community. Happy day to you!

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

A wide-open path and a blue, blue sky--who could ask for more?

Sylvia said...

Pat, How very cool! It was nice to take at trip back in time. Amazing what peoples did in ancient times and how we can still find evidence today. Thanks for sharing and have a great week. Sylvia D.

Lowcarb team member said...

Always lovely to get out and about.
You do live in a lovely and very interesting area.
Many thanks for the information and photographs.

Hope your week is going well.

All the best Jan

Jim said...

Love it when clouds look like this.

Nanda kumar said...

I like that rural path

Lady Fi said...

Can you imagine discovering that mandible?! Wow!

Lillian www.sognafaret.no said...

So mutch to learn if you want to

betty-NZ said...

I think lots of folk are finding gems in their back yard, too, but yours is suh an amazing find!

I appreciate your link at 'My Corner of the World' this week!

Light and Voices said...

Greetings and Salutations! I was awed by the photographs this week. Thanks for sharing this interesting information. Have a lovely week end. Be safe.

Rambling Woods said...

When there are ever programs or articles on this kind of thing, I am all over it. I love this and admire the people who spend all that time in the hot sun and dirt to uncover the past...

Michelle said...

I would love to see/participate in this. Archeology is very interesting to me. Thanks for linking up.