Points, Pithouses, and Pioneers: Tracing Durango's Archaeological Past

Points, Pithouses, and Pioneers: Tracing Durango's Archaeological Past

Points, Pithouses, and Pioneers: Tracing Durango's Archaeological Past

Points, Pithouses, and Pioneers: Tracing Durango's Archaeological Past

Excerpt

Durango, a picturesque little town with some 14,000 residents, is about an hour’s drive from Mesa Verde and just over two hours from Chaco Canyon, two widely known and well-studied archaeological sites (Figure 1.1). Yet the town itself doesn’t have a single standing archaeological ruin within its boundaries. Why, then, would we choose to write a book on Durango archaeology, especially since there are literally dozens of books on Southwest archaeology currently on the market?

Actually, we chose this locale for several compelling reasons. Archaeologists have long considered Durango and the Animas River valley to be among the most important locations for our understanding of the prehistory of the American Southwest. The Animas valley was home to a large prehistoric population that lived several centuries earlier than that at much better known archaeological sites such as Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon. Moreover, Durango’s location at the boundary between the Rocky Mountains and the desert offers archaeologists the opportunity to investigate how ancient populations lived in a “marginal” environment.

Yet, despite the importance of Durango’s archaeology, no synthesis of all the work conducted in this area has been made available to either professionals or the general public. Since the mid-1990s, professional archaeologists, among them Steve Fuller and Francis Smiley, have produced some excellent monographs on Durango, but these were written primarily for colleagues in the field. Similarly, Florence Lister . . .

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