Southwestern archaeology field class studies the old fashioned way

When you're studying archaeology in the Four Corners, why learn about it from text book or in a classroom when you can get out there and discover it for yourself?

Starting June 22, Fort Lewis students will do just that.

That's when 13 students will start "A Summer in Southwest Archaeology," a six-week Innovative Month course that puts students in the field excavating an ancient pueblo site in southwestern Colorado. While living and working on-site, students learn all facets of archaeological excavation, and get hands-on practice at archaeological sampling strategies, artifact identification, and prehistoric architectural documentation.

The Pigg Site is a prehistoric pueblo community dating to A.D.1200. It was occupied during the period between the decline of the Chaco System and the height of construction at Mesa Verde, and is adjacent to the Lowry Ruin complex. The site, consisting of some 50 pueblo rooms, is owned by the Fort Lewis College Foundation. It was donated to the foundation in 1980 by the Crow family, of Durango, for training students in archaeological field techniques.

This Summer's field work will focus on completely excavating one of the villages several kivas. While working, in addition to studying archaeological field work, students will also be learning about public outreach, archaeological ethics, and cultural resource-management law.

The course runs through July 31, and is taught by Charles R. Riggs, an associate professor of Anthropology and director of the Heritage Resource Management Certificate Program. This is the course's third year, and its largest number of participants so far. The dig is grant funded by the Colorado State Historical Fund.

"Living conditions are primitive," a promotional flier for the course warns (or promises!). "Students should be willing to adapt to less than comfortable, outdoor living conditions." Participants are also responsible for their own on-site meal preparation and living accommodations. If needed, students can borrow tents and other equipment from the Outdoor Pursuits program.

But the challenge will be worth the reward, Riggs assures students.

"The best way to learn is by doing," says Riggs. "This is especially true of archaeological fieldwork techniques, which do not lend themselves well to classroom instruction. In addition, the close-knit and primitive conditions of the project foster close personal bonds, encourage teamwork and often lead to life-long friendships."

Students and archaeologists will be in the field every week day from June 22 until July 31. Visitors are welcome.

Find more information on the Pigg Site field research here.