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Press Release (City of Colorado Springs)

The City of Colorado Springs and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have partnered on a historic archaeological dig in Garden of the Gods Park. This rare and significant project has recovered items from the late 1800s and early 1900s directly linked to Colorado Springs founder, William Jackson Palmer, and his family’s occupation of the Glen Eyrie Estate.

“It’s exciting to discover an intact archaeological site that promises to reveal new information about the Palmer family and their role in establishing our community,” said Matt Mayberry, City cultural services manager. “Such sites are exceedingly rare, and we look forward to sharing this newly discovered information with the public.”

The sites, identified as Palmer’s domestic refuse middens (also known as trash heaps), were discovered by City of Colorado Springs lead archaeologist Anna Cordova during site monitoring for the Camp Creek Drainage Improvement Project. The multi-phase drainage project was initiated in 2015 due to significant rainstorms that caused serious erosion in the creek, a side effect of the Waldo Canyon fire, which burned a large percentage of the Camp Creek watershed.

Following Cordova’s discovery, FEMA and the Colorado State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) determined two archaeological sites in the area were considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. A memorandum of agreement requiring data recovery before work on the drainage project could continue was signed in August between FEMA, SHPO, the City, and the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The recovery of data is expected to mitigate any adverse impacts related to future construction in this area, and construction of a stormwater detention and sedimentation pond as part of the drainage project will commence in early 2019.

“This is a great example of why there is an environmental and historic preservation element in the work we do,” said FEMA Region VIII Administrator Lee K. dePalo. “I commend all of our partners as we work together to make the excavation and recovery possible before the drainage project continues.”

Alpine Archaeological Consultants of Montrose, Colo., was contracted to execute the archaeological research design, treatment plan and extraction. Funded through the Colorado State Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, more than 135 excavation units have been investigated by Alpine. Crews have been working on two sites since Oct. 2, and field work is expected to be complete Nov. 20.

“We don’t typically get sites like this, especially in historical archaeology,” said Mike Prouty, Alpine project archaeologist. “There have been hundreds of artifacts recovered from each of the units, so the sites are really giving a voice to Palmer and his family’s everyday life, and we’re learning a lot.”

Among the recovered artifacts to date are fragments of ceramic plates; building material from Glen Eyrie, including bricks, lightbulbs and batteries; fully intact glass bottles; textile and clothing remnants, such as shoe leathers and buttons; and, food debris, like peach pits and fish bones and shells. Following the dig, archaeologists will closely analyze and catalogue the data offsite, and a detailed public report will be issued in 2019. The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum is also planning a special exhibit to share the extracted artifacts as part of a major new exhibit about Palmer scheduled for late 2019.

Guided public tours of the archaeological site will be available Nov. 17-20 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 3-4:30 p.m. Weather dependent, these tours will begin at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center on the second floor balcony before departing for the site.