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Rock art in Southeastern Colorado, Part 2

by Susan Simons


Discovering rock art is a thrill; recording rock art is work. May 6-16 members of the Colorado Rock Art Association (CRAA) with project archaeologist Larry Loendorf worked on a private ranch and on public lands adjacent to the Pinyon Canyon Maneuver Site to record rock art sites at the request of the landowner.  In last week’s article, we began describing what a work crew does to record a rock art site.  First a small team is assigned to complete a comprehensive site plan..

    At the same time, another team is recording the rock art.  One person will locate the rock art with respect to compass points and the datum and surrounding landmarks.  They will fill out a two-page Rock Art Component Form for each cluster of images, taking measurements and noting the position of each image with respect to other images. One person will draw each image to scale in pencil.  The drawings will later be inked in the lab. Another person will photograph each image in three different ways, keeping an exact photo log.

    Another small team may be scouting in the vicinity of the site for other related sites and panels.  It’s hot, dusty, thirsty, and exacting work.  A work crew could easily spend a half-day to a full day recording a site of medium size. Then later, the crew will spend three hours in the lab consolidating the data for every hour in the field.

    A report and records will be sent to the State Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for their database.  The records may also be sent to the National Register of Historic Places. The sites recorded on this trip are all potentially eligible for the National Register. 

    The records must be accurate enough that others can use them to do further work on the site or to collate information from various sites or to shape hypotheses or confirm theories. The researchers believe “that southeastern Colorado canyons are one of the  most significant areas remaining in North America where archaeologists can study pristine hunter-gatherer remains.” 

    Also, the project documents should be useful to all concerned in decision-making about the proposed Pinyon Canyon Maneuver Site expansion, including the U. S. Army, southeastern Colorado ranchers, the Colorado Historic Preservation Office, and Native American groups whose ­ancestors may have lived in the canyon countries.  All of the above will be committed to preservation of these historic sites which are part of every American’s non-renewable cultural heritage.

    To learn more about CRAA, explore their website at  Ranchers/landowners in southeastern Colorado who believe they have archaeological sites on their property can contact CRAA to request an archaeological survey of their land. The contact person is Anne Whitfield, Project Chair of CRAA.  She can be contacted at

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