Public Archaeology and Cultural Resource Conservation in Colorado Springs

I wrote this blog to work towards a common goal all of us archaeologically-minded folk have- to help show the world why archaeology is vital to protect the past and inform our futures.

I am an archaeologist that graduated a little over a year ago from the University of Colorado with a Bachelors degree in Anthropology. I have worked in Southeastern Colorado as an archaeologist for over 5 years – working on campus archaeology in the lab, and the field while I was obtaining my degree. I have also volunteered with archaeological projects in Belize and South Africa. Currently, I work as an Interpretive Park Ranger for the City of Colorado Springs’ Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Department. Among my many responsibilities, I am charged with monitoring the cultural resources of many of the city’s open spaces. These properties are parks of varied sizes that have retained much of their natural environment. As a result, they often  have cultural resources within them. My focus on these resources is two-fold in this job. On one hand, I look after these resources for any damage or disturbance.  On the other hand, I also act as an interpreter of these resources for park visitors. In doing so, I (hopefully) help park visitors learn more about these resources, which could lead to a meaningful connection for that individual with those park resources.

Understanding how we, the species Homo sapiens, got here requires that we understand where we have been and how we overcame the trials of life. What the discipline of archaeology offers all of us is the ability to uncover things we have lost to time. For example, how a species of bipedal apes that may have been nearly driven to the brink of extinction around 75,000 years ago were able to take refuge along the South African coast, ultimately propel themselves into the future, across the land and seas, and eventually into outer space by their amazing ability to innovate — to create new things, and solve new problems.

We are an amazing species. We harbor great power of creation and destruction. As we move forward in an uncertain future, it is vital that we remember how we got to where we are. We need to contextualize our place in history so we will be more informed on how to proceed into the future. Our cultures, our stories- they are how we retain and share our knowledge so we can continue to accumulate solutions to the problems facing us. As an Interpretive Park Ranger and archaeologist, my goal is to help people connect with those who came before us in hopes that they gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for those people, their cultures, and their stories.

Though, to really experience the beauty of our story, you have to look at each of the many parts that make up the whole. Human experience is as diverse as the physical expression of our genes. We have managed to inhabit nearly every conceivable environment on the planet, and not only survive there— but lead meaningful lives there. Lives enriched with art, music, and stories! There is a very good chance that it was our ability to imagine and innovate that allowed us to outcompete all of the other rather intelligent bipedal apes (e.g. the Neanderthals) that we once shared the planet with.

Archaeological work is also the sum of many parts, many projects, and many individuals. Under my management, on Friday, July 28th, my part was to make myself available to park visitors in the most visited park under my division’s management, Red Rock Canyon Open Space. I was there with reading material on the park’s cultural resources, and I answered many visitors’ questions about who visited, worked, and lived in the area that is now the park over the last 12,000 years. I also answered questions on what archaeologists really do (or don’t do). As I continue with this job, I will host more tabling days with the same goal in mind. I will also be performing an archaeological survey (which is a systematic and thorough search for cultural resources) of a park that has never been surveyed before. Initial results are showing that there are multiple archaeological sites at that park which have not been documented yet. We are in the process of documenting them now that we know they’re there. As an Interpretive Park Ranger/Archaeologist, I work to discover new cultural resources, protect known resources, and help park visitors learn about, and connect with, those resources.


David Stielow

Park Ranger

City of Colorado Springs

Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services