Center for Mountain and Plains Archaeology

The Center for Mountain and Plains Archaeology (CMPA) is a research facility that conducts archaeological exploration and stewardship along the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains.

Clark A-wing

Our research examines human-environmental interaction over deep time and across multiple spatial scales:

  • Emphasis on Native American history, beginning with the initial peopling of the Americas (13,000 years ago) and continuing through the contact era of the 1870’s.
  • Studying people who were foragers and at times, small scale farmers.
  • Evaluating models of seasonal mobility through the varied ecosystems of the Southern Rocky Mountains.
  • Subsistence technologies studied via groundstone, hearth technology, ceramic wares, communal hunting, and zooarchaeology.
  • Field work including archaeological surveys, subsurface testing, and block excavations.
  • Lab research on extant archaeological collections housed in regional museums.
  • Accomplished with graduate and undergraduate students, volunteers, and professional partners.

Current Projects

Survey and Excavation along the Grassland/Foothills Ecotone of Northern Colorado.

Since 2005, CMPA crews have recorded hundreds of archaeological sites throughout northern Colorado, and in particular Larimer and Boulder Counties. We have tested large numbers of sites containing hearths, in order to reconstruct past diets (through macrobotanical remains) as well as radiocarbon date the cultural features and expand the regional chronology. As well, we have made detailed feature illustrations of many stone circle (tipi ring) sites to emphasize details of house and site layout. We also routinely help document and record artifact collections from the region. This work has been supported by the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland, Larimer County, the United States Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.

Fossil Creek Site

Since 2010, the CMPA has surveyed, tested, and block excavated the Fossil Creek site (5LR13041), a major prehistoric camp in northern Colorado. The site has artifacts from every prehistoric period, going back to Folsom and late Paleoindian times; however the largest cultural component dates to the Early Ceramic or Plains Woodland period, approximately 1200 years ago. Block excavations (over 70 m2) and extensive radiocarbon dating have revealed a dense occupation, with scores of fire hearths, abundant pottery, arrow points, etc. Analysis of the site collections is underway, with a final report in preparation. This work has been supported by the Natural Areas Program, City of Fort Collins.

Rollins Pass Game Drives and Settlement Systems

CMPA crews have actively surveyed and recorded archaeological sites in/around Rollins Pass (Boulder, Grand, Gilpin Counties) since 2010. The pass (nearly 12,000 feet in elevation) contains prehistoric campsites dating back to the early Holocene (several late Paleoindian era “Allen” sites have been recorded), with most sites dating to the last 3000 years. The sites are located in a variety of site settings, from alpine lakes, to small passes, and areas of krummholz. We have spent considerable effort mapping hunting blinds and massive rock walls in the alpine tundra, to study communal hunting of bighorn sheep and elk at Rollins Pass by prehistoric hunters. This work has been supported by the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest.

Lindenmeier Folsom Site

Since 2005, the CMPA has routinely surface surveyed and mapped the Lindenmeier site (5LR13), the largest known Folsom site (12,000 years before present). This has led to a detailed map of the site surface and its arroyos, demonstrating that cultural deposits remain intact in select portions of the site. Radiocarbon dates have been processed from various samples, further refining the chronology of the site. This work has been supported by the Natural Areas Program, City of Fort Collins.

Ice Patch Survey

CMPA crews annually survey ice patches located in the alpine ecosystems of the Southern Rocky Mountains. We have investigated over 50 ice patches since 2012, with large surveys in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. Many of the ice patches yield biological materials such as animal bones that allow for reconstruction of past environments. We have recorded two cultural sites from ice patches thus far, providing solid evidence for the human use of these resources. This work has been sponsored by a research grant from the National Park Service.

Fremont Granaries of Western Colorado

CMPA crews have conducted fieldwork in southern Moffat County, near the Utah border, since 2016. This work aims at discovering new and re-recording previously known Fremont granaries (1000 years old) in this rough canyon country. We seek to better understand the timing and extent of Fremont farming in far western Colorado, as well as capture 3-d models of the granaries themselves for purposes of public education and site management. This work has been sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Center for Mountain and Plains Archaeology is committed to Outreach and Education:

Make our research open and accessible to the public through publications, talks, and events.

Lead tours of local archaeological sites.

Work with a range of partners, including the National Park Service, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Program, Larimer County Department of Natural Resources, the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, and private landowners.

For more information, please contact Dr. Jason LaBelle

Mailing Address
Department of Anthropology
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO