SOLD OUT Archaeology Research Program, Session II

Cortez, CO


This session is SOLD OUT. Life happens and cancellations do happen, so please add your name to the waitlist by sending an email to

Join an important research opportunity as a citizen scientist to help advance understanding of human-environment relationships in the Mesa Verde region of Southwest Colorado.

For this unique program, we’ve brought together more than a dozen scholars and educators in Indigenous and Western archaeology to guide us through inquiry, learning, and discussion about how Ancestral Pueblo peoples forged relationships with the environment through time.

Together we’ll contemplate themes like water management, sustainable agriculture, and migration as we learn from Indigenous perspectives, engage in hands-on research methods, and visit area landscapes with respect.


  • Your participation in this program directly contributes to furthering research of the Northern Chaco Outliers Project.
  • Experience one of the most archaeological-rich locations in the U.S.
  • Enjoy the rural comfort of campus life on 170-acres complete with nature trails, stunning views, rocking chairs, and a night sky full of constellations.

What to Expect

Day 1, Sunday: Welcome

Arrive at Crow Canyon’s campus between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. to check in and settle into your accommodations. At 4:00 p.m. we gather for introductions, a campus orientation, and discuss what to expect for the week. The evening is yours to relax, unpack, get to know fellow participants, and explore the serenity of Crow Canyon’s 170-acre campus on your own.

Day 2, Monday: Mesa Verde Region Orientation Guided by Crow Canyon educators, we work together in building a valuable knowledge base that will carry you through the week. You’ll gain an overview of cultural foundations in the Mesa Verde region and engage in a lively round-table discussion on archaeology and ethics. During a campus tour, identify the region’s common flora and fauna, their uses and applications, as well as gain valuable insights into ancient dryland maize agricultural techniques that are being re-created today. Crow Canyon’s unique outdoor classrooms—replica pithouse and pueblo—provide the perfect backdrop to learn how ancestral lifeways change through time.

Day 3, Tuesday: Human Responses to Changing Environments

Today we apply techniques that reveal environmental signatures in the archaeological record. Dive into thought-provoking conversations on the Neolithic Transition—a critical shift from hunting and gathering to farming—and its immense impact on human populations and environments throughout the world. In the laboratory, learn to identify and measure animal bones, and apply this information in the reconstruction of past environments and what they can reveal about human relationships to animal resources today. Your analyses are an important contribution to data we collect for the Northern Chaco Outliers Project and the Haynie site—one of the longest-lived community centers in the Mesa Verde region.

Day 4, Wednesday: Human Migrations

Working with members of Crow Canyon’s American Indian Initiatives department, gain first-hand information on the role of Indigenous Knowledge—which includes Traditional Ecological Knowledge—in the study of humans and their environments. Relate your own personal histories and stories to global migrations, grounding your relationships to the significance of “place.” Travel to the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation south of Cortez for a unique opportunity to learn about remote-sensing technology, including LiDAR, in the identification of landscape features. Discover the application of these technologies as you study an ancient road segment and complete archaeological site forms for this undocumented and important place that once connected Ancestral Pueblo communities.

Day 5, Thursday: Foodways and Social Identities

Food builds community—providing space for us to slow down, talk, laugh, and connect. It is also a powerful medium through which we develop awareness and love for cultures and histories. Through the exploration of foodways and cuisine, we discover the development of social identities—how people identify themselves and distinguish themselves from others—and relate these concepts to the Ancestral Pueblo peoples of the Mesa Verde region. Learn how to process soil samples from the Haynie site to identify plants in the archaeological record, while also determining how plants were used as food, medicine, fuel, and architecture. Your work directly contributes to the development of Crow Canyon’s research reference collection so that staff and students can readily identify plants in the archaeological record.

Day 6, Friday: Water Management in the Past and Present

Through the millennia, the weather patterns have been vital to human survival and the development of agricultural practices. In the laboratory, you’ll gain hands-on experience in reconstructing past environments using dendroarchaeology techniques—dating tools in areas where trees are particularly responsive to annual variations in precipitation. Reading tree-rings will help you identify precipitation trends over time, such as droughts, which yields important information on our discussion for how people responded to fluctuations in water availability. Today, Montezuma County is well known for its dryland bean production and agricultural enterprises. A field trip to visit a variety of water management features on the landscape rounds out our discussion of occupational sustainability—past and present. We return to campus for a reception, dinner, and wrap-up with staff.

Day 7, Saturday: Departures

Cold breakfast and departures by 10:00 a.m. Safe travels!

Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California CST 2059347-50

Is this program right for me?


The program is designed for curious, open-minded people who want to play an important role in furthering research initiatives. As a citizen scientist, the results of your efforts directly contribute to the Northern Chaco Outliers Project. Team spirit and a good sense of humor are vital! Southwest Colorado is known to experience highly variable weather conditions. The entire program takes place at elevations between 5,000 and 7,000-feet.


Each session will include up to ten participants.


Campus lodging is provided in a shared dormitory-style cabin and each cabin is equipped with its own bathroom. While each participant will have their own room, they may need to share a bathroom.

Cafeteria-style meals are included (Sunday night through Friday dinner, a cold, self-serve breakfast is available Saturday morning). Transportation throughout the program will be provided when necessary.

For questions related to registration or payment, contact Shawn Collins at As we move closer to the start date, we provide additional program details, a packing list, and forms for you to complete.


How strenuous is the program? Moderate—during field trips, you can expect to walk with a backpack and stand for periods of time. Be prepared to bring and carry your small daypack with water, snacks, and other personal items.

What time does the program start each day? The program begins every day at 8:30 a.m., Monday through Friday.

What time does the program end on the last day? The program ends around 3:30 p.m. on Friday, followed by a wrap-up reception on campus. Wrap up goes until 5:30 when dinner is served.

Is airport transportation available? For an additional fee (CEZ $50 one way; DRO $100 one way), Crow Canyon staff can provide transportation to/from the Cortez Municipal Airport (CEZ) or Durango La Plata Airport (DRO).

Can I bring an RV to stay on campus? RVs are not permitted to stay on campus. There are a number of local RV parks in the area, and we recommend making reservations well in advance.