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Research / Discovery

Department of Anthropology receives $1 million gift for Mountain Archaeology Fund

May 2, 2011

A $1 million gift to CSU's Department of Anthropology will help support better understanding of the role that Native Americans played in forming the cultural and ecological landscapes of the southern Rocky Mountains.

Archaeologists at work in the Lindenmeier site north of Fort Collins. Alpine exploration

The gift, which establishes the James and Audrey Benedict Mountain Archaeology Fund, also will help train a new generation of CSU students as archaeologists by allowing for exploration of new mountain ranges in alpine country, one of the least understood cultural environments.

“As long-time friends and supporters of the Department of Anthropology, Jim and Audrey Benedict have dedicated their lives to studying how humans have continued to adapt to changing environmental conditions,” said archaeology Professor Jason LaBelle. “This invaluable gift – the largest ever in the department – will advance geological and archaeological research in the Rocky Mountains and honor the Benedict’s deep appreciation for the natural world, commitment to research, stewardship and public education.”

Jim Benedict, who died on March 8, spent his life researching natural history in the alpine country. Audrey Benedict is founder and director of the Cloud Ridge Naturalist field program, which provides history education and environmentally responsible travel to some of the world’s most ecologically at-risk locations.

Center for Mountain and Plains Archaeology

In addition to the gift, the archaeology program has benefitted from moving thousands of artifacts and research facilities from off-campus areas to the newly named Center for Mountain and Plains Archaeology, which is now housed in the A-wing of the Clark Building on the Main Campus.

“This new center in the heart of campus will greatly enhance the significant research, educational opportunities and outreach of the department in pursuing mountain and plains archaeology,” said Kathleen Sherman, department chair. For the past 20 years, the department had housed a large number of its artifacts and conducted research offsite in what had been named the Laboratory of Public Archaeology, Sherman said.

“The new location makes this unified collection much more accessible to the students and faculty it serves. It also expands the department’s collaborations with other colleagues in the department, in other colleges on campus, in other universities, and in federal, state and local resource agencies across the region,” she said.

Repository of history

The Center for Mountain and Plains Archaeology is home to the Archaeological Repository, which retains more than 18,000 catalog items consisting of prehistoric and historic artifacts representing a fairly complete sample of the material cultures of peoples living in the Northern Colorado region over the past 12,000 years or more. 

The repository is assisted by seven undergraduate practicum students who help manage and catalog the artifacts.

For more information on the Department of Anthropology and details on tours of The Center for Mountain and Plains Archaeology, contact Jaime King at Jaime.King@colostate.edu

May 3 talk on early settlers

CSU archaeology Professor Jason LaBelle will talk about the history of the earliest settlers to North America from 7:30-9 p.m. May 3 at the city of Fort Collins Community Room, 215 N. Mason St.

Since 2006, LaBelle has conducted research at the largest Paleo-Indian site in North America, the Lindenmeier site at the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. Excavations by the Smithsonian Institute from 1934 to 1940 revealed human occupation at the site dating back 12,000 years or more.

The presentation is free and sponsored by the city of Fort Collins Natural Areas program.

For more information, call (970) 224-6118.