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



Digging With Sir Lancelot

My name is Przemysław Nocuń and I would like to call myself both archeologist and castellologist. For nine years now I have been privilaged to conduct archaeological excavations at one of the most important monuments of the Middle Ages in Poland.

Ducal tower of Siedlęcin, in Lower Silesia, Poland, displays one of the most complete and important sets of 14th century domestic wall paintings in Central Europe. The paintings are a rarity both for their mixture of secular, religious and didactic themes, and for their leading subject being the legend of Sir Lancelot of the Lake. Today the tower is the only place in the world where the medieval wall paintings depicting Sir Lancelot of the Lake have been preserved in situ. The tower itself is one of the largest and best preserved medieval tower houses in this part of Europe. Initially crenelated, it stands 22 meters high (72 feet) and retains its original medieval configuration. The most siginificant alteration since the fourteenth century is the addition of a roof in the sixteenth century.

The tower’s Great Hall with the unique paintings depicting Sir Lancelot of the Lake and his legendary exploits. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


A Day with Macedonian Archaeology—Styberra, Center of Devriop

Styberra—Center of Devriop

The ancient city of Styberra is located 16 km south-west of Prilep, in the immediate vicinity of the village Chepigovo. The town is spread on the hillside Bedem, the surrounding plateau towards the river Blato, the area between it and Crna Reka, as well as on the hill Bakarno Gumno.  Styberra was an important urban center that existed for a long period of time from the end of the 4th century BC to 4th century AD. It is assumed that one of the main reasons for the city’s collapse was the raid of the Goths in 267/8 or 268/9, during the reign of Emperor Gallienus.

In the ancient written sources about the Roman – Macedonian wars, it is recorded that during the expedition of the consul Sulpicius against the Macedonian king Philip V (200 BC), the Roman  armada withdrawing from Link, arrived in Styberra, where they renewed their supplies with grain. According to the same records, we also learn that the last king of ancient Macedonia, Perseus in the year 169 BC organized his military command post in the city of Styberra, from where he started conquering the territories of neighboring Penesti, who fought with him during the battles against the Romans.

After the conquest of the city of Uscana (Kicevo), the king returned to Styberra where he sold the captured Penesti and Illyrians as slaves. Later records point to the ubication of the city in the region of Devriop on the river Erigon (Crna Reka) and that it was on the ancient road communication Stobi – Heraclea.

Between the two world wars small excavations were undertaken by Nikola Vulić, while the first more serious archaeological excavations at the site Bedem – Styberra were realized by the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia in 1953. In 1959, there were excavations by the National Museum of Prilep. After a long pause, starting from 1983 until this day the National Museum of Prilep is excavating this site.

In the past archaeological campaigns, parts of the city wall from the time of the rule of the Macedonian kings were discovered, while all other discovered buildings were from the Roman Imperial Period, i.e. from the time of the great prosperity and flourishing of the empire (the Antonine and the Severan dynasties – II century and the first half of the III century).

The city walls from the Macedonian period were found in the northern part of the hillside Bedem and were 3 m. wide and 30 m long, while in its western part the wall extends parallel to the later roman gymnasium and is recorded in the length of 63 m.

The Gymnasium complex was a public building in which the young men – ephebe were educated and millitary-trained. It was erected on the lowest terrace in the western foothill of the hill Bedem, which mildly descends to the Blato River. A large courtyard was discovered – perisitil with atrium and vestibule-proatrium where public lectures were held, an exedra, a heroon- sanctuary, a small square with a drainage channel and a small part of the athletic path.

A number of movable artefacts were also discovered, objects for everyday use, as well as  marble altars, a herma and inscriptions with writing about the functioning of the Gymnasium. Comparing the number of the mentioned ephebes on the epigraphic monuments, we can calculate the number of inhabitants in the city, that is, we can see that the city of Styberra was a large city for that time with about twenty thousand inhabitants. Certainly, according to the importance, a large number of marble findings discovered in the Gymnasium stand out – statues of meritorious citizens, statue of the emperor and sculptures of deities (Asclepius, Nike, Mercury).

The temple of the goddess Tyche, the protector of the city, is located on one of the terraces on the hill Bedem which descends from east to west. From the west end, one can enter a room with dimensions of 10 x 10 m. The walls were made of crushed stone and bricks, connected with lime plaster. In the eastern wall of the room there is a central semicircular niche, and on the side walls there are three niches. In the interior, a well was discovered, most probably used for cultic purposes. From the inscription in the central niche we found out that the temple was restored in 126 BC, while from the inscriptions in the other niches we can read the names of the people whose busts were in them. The busts of the father Orestos and the son Philoxenus were discovered, they were members of the family who founded/sponsored the temple, as well as a small statue of a young Dionysus.

This year, during the excavations an adjacent building to the temple was discovered in which we assume that some ritual processions that preceded the main ritual activities in the temple were taking place. A few facts point to this assumption. In particular, the walls of the building are three times narrower than those of the temple, which of course ranks the two buildings in their importance. The width is 13 m, which means there was a sufficient space where a large number of people who participated in the ritual can be gathered, unlike the smaller space in the temple, where only a handful of citizens and the presets could enter.

In the central part there is a platform with marble floors and fencing blocks – parapets and a well in the middle, with the same depth as the one in the temple-up to 3 m. Only one part of the well was explored, so future excavations will confirm our assumption for its purpose, which was probably cultic. Another room, a workshop for terracotta figurines of deities and ceramic oil lamps, excavated in the last two years was also a part of this adjacent building of the temple. Also a large number of pits and four furnaces, used in the production process were discovered.

Latter in the 3rd century AD, a shrine of a God with a bird face was built above the workshop. It was modest in size, with only two rooms, with poorly constructed walls of crushed rock mixed with mud. This sanctuary was in use at a time when the city of Styberra started to lose its glow as an urban Roman regional center. But its great scientific significance is that it was intended for worshiping a deity with bird attributes, whose relief was discovered on a marble plaque, part of a small “house”.

Beside the “small house” with the relief, two more small “houses” from marble plaques were found, all radially positioned towards the platform in the western wall of the building. According to the symbol of a great eye shown in profile, the deity is similar to the Egyptian god Horus. But our God has bird claws on it arms and legs, whereas Horus has human limbs. We can chronologically place this sanctuary at a time when the cults from the East are spreading to this part of the Empire, including the ones from Egypt, such as the cults of Isis and Serapis.

If this is not a representation of Horus, then it would be an indigenous local deity with bird attributes. Previous research in our country, but also in the wider Balkan region have not confirmed a similar deity, so in this case this finding from Styberra would be a unique and rare scientific discovery.

At about 60 m. north from the temple of the goddess Tyche another very important building was discovered. A monumental structure which according to its size and the discovered findings in it, was probably a building of a public character. The front room with a width of 17 m. had walls decorated with an imitation of a monumental opus isodonum performed in a stucco technique. This decoration was divided by a horizontal line, where the upper part was comprised of several light-colored fields, while the lower part was painted in red. Also a low platform and several altars were erected beside the eastern wall.

A statue of an important citizen and a several marble fragments from the building were discovered inside. The upper room, which was only partially excavated, had walls and floors paved with decorative marble plaques with floral ornaments. Beside all of the abovementioned findings, the most valuable discovery was the epigraphic monument with an inscription that mentions the city council of Styberra. A finding like this suggests that the building was the assembly (Bouleuterion) of the city, which would make it the first of its kind in our country.

Unfortunately, the building had to be buried again, because the plot where it is located, as well as all the other plots in the area are privately owned. We are currently in the process of finding a positive solution for the legal status of this property so we can continue our research in the future.

With the archaeological excavations of the ancient city of Styberra so far, a very small percentage of the city is covered.  However, the discovered buildings and findings point to the high status that the city held, especially in the Roman Imperial Period. Also a very significant data about the history and the development of the city has come to light through the inscriptions and the altars discovered. With its 20,000 inhabitants, a number obtained by comparing the records of the number of ephebes in a particular year, Styberra was, of course, a significant urban center in the Devriop area. The rich findings and the high cultural and spiritual level of development are presented through a very beautiful portraits and cult marble statues, due to which the city rightly deserves the epithet “Macedonian Pompeii”.

Duško Temelkovski


Animated Archaeology

With one year of survey, three years of excavation, and one study season completed in the past few years, this summer has seen the final year of study for the Palace and Landscape at Palaikastro (PALAP) team. From excavation to conservation, we have been hard at work reconstructing the history of our site here on the island of Crete.


Over three millennia ago, Palaikastro was a thriving Minoan settlement situated on the east coast of the island. The town was rediscovered by archaeologists more than a century ago, but new campaigns have continued to reveal more of this fascinating site, and the five year PALAP excavation project has uncovered several multi-occupation buildings.

For the past two seasons, our study has focused on reconstructing the history of the site through the excavated material.

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

In the lab, this has included the careful washing and conserving of objects, the photographing and drawing of selected material, and the organization and cataloguing of all conserved artifacts.

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season Palaikastro 2017 Study Season Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

Digital tools such as GIS, combined with the study of conserved artifacts and notes from the field, enable us to better understand these objects and contextualize their histories within Minoan life.

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season  Palaikastro 2017 Study Season 

Combining artifact analysis with excavation records, digital data allows us to reconstruct a comprehensive picture of ancient life at Palaikastro.

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season  Palaikastro 2017 Study Season  Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

Whether we’re digging in the field, finding pottery joins in the lab, or writing final reports, archaeology is both challenging and immensely rewarding. But no matter what, we always find time for some fun!

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

Palaikastro 2017 Study Season

Community archaeology- behind the scenes. #YourArchaeology with @landbonestone

Today I am office bound. My day has started by writing up records for a project I have been conducting for the South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership (Dorset AONB). Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, its objective is to engage with the local community about the archaeology of the landscape in which they live, whilst also conducting important research. We’ve called it #YourArchaeology because we want to ensure that the Historic Environment Record is relevant to those who live and work in the landscape.

Assessing the condition of strip lynchets and a quarry

I am working with local people to ‘ground-truth’ these records. Not only have we been condition assessing but also re-evaluating interpretations and discovering new sites. This has included adding types of sites that were not originally included, for example agricultural farm buildings. These are seen by local people as important landscape features but they are slowly disappearing and have not previously been recorded.

North Farm Barn; Not previously recorded in the Historic Environment Record

The team has also added rich detail to many records; for example, some sites have been dated because local participants can identify bricks made in the local brick factory. On other sites we have included folklore about their usage, and have even included some interpretations based upon dowsing results.

We had walked half way along this footpath before realising it was actually one in a series of terraces or lynchets which have become woodland. These were unknown to the historic environment record or to local people.

I also had the pleasure of speaking to a landowner this morning who is willing to allow a group of volunteers onto his land to record the details of a water meadow. Although the presence of a water meadow had been previously noted in the historic environment record, more detailed documentation will really enhance understanding of the site.

A sluice that feeds the water meadows. We are going to return to conduct a detailed survey of this feature and any others we can find.

My final job for the day has been to create a celebratory and thank you event for all the participants as #YourArchaeology comes to the end of this particular phase.

Holding a Fort

Back at work today after a short break at home in Scotland, I’ve had to catch up with lots of business, and this includes the current programme of conservation work at Fort Cumberland. The present fort was built from c. 1782-1812 to hold the Eastney peninsula and the entrance to Langstone Harbour. It replaced an earthwork fort of 1747 from which two buildings survive. The fort is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and contains several listed buildings.

Fort Cumberland from the air, copyright Historic England

Previous repairs have largely focused on the buildings that we occupy as offices, laboratories and for storage, but this time funding has been allocated to a major programme of conservation work on the fabric of the defences. These have been left largely untouched since the monument passed to State care after the Royal Marines moved out in 1973, and were not in a terribly good condition even then thanks to the effects of weathering, root penetration and wartime bombing. The intervening years have not been kind to the fort, in particular to the brickwork elements which are suffering from the roots of ivy and brambles, and repairs were needed to safeguard the survival of a range of historic features.

The first step, taken last year, was to demolish some derelict military structures that were not capable of being reused. In all cases these were beyond economic repair, and had been identified as being intrusive or of low significance in the site’s Conservation Plan. These had been recorded in advance of demolition, and I maintained a watching brief throughout this work.

Demolition of derelict mess buildings in the moat in 2016.

As a result of this work we have fewer military urinals and toilet blocks, and a great deal less asbestos.

The priorities for the current phase of work are the defences, mainly the bastions and curtain walls, but also including components of the extensive counterscarp defences that generally survive very well. Of particular concern is a double set of steps leading from the moat to the counterscarp. These had been badly repaired in the past, with damaged stone treads replaced in cast concrete, and extensive cement pointing that had trapped moisture inside the fabric.

Stairs to the counterscarp defences, during the removal of loose brickwork

As a result the brick facing is failing, and loose bricks are now being removed to reveal the extent of the problem. The intention is to repair the substructure using lime mortar, and to replace the concrete treads with new stone ones.

The left bastion, scaffolded to provide safe access to the brick parapet

Given the height of the main defences, scaffolding is having to be used to provide safe access to the brickwork of the parapet and the gun embrasures. The tops of the parapets have needed some reinforcement. These were built to a slope, to allow infantry to lean on them while they fired out over the defences, but as built they had no supporting structure.

Top of brick parapet, showing the lack of support for the sloping top.

The effects of root penetration have caused these to move, and they are now being rebuilt against a new sub-structure.

Rebuilding the top of the parapet

Most of the original facing bricks are being reused, only being replaced when the originals are too badly eroded or fragmentary.

The entrance to a WW2 trench, cut into the side of a gun embrasure

The general approach has been to conserve as found, with later features such as the entrances to Second World War trenches being preserved in the course of conservation work.

Scaffolding erected for the conservation of one of the main stairs to rampart level

Work is also proceeding on the conservation of the stairs to the ramparts. The stone treads are generally in reasonable condition, but have moved due to the effects of root penetration and frost. I excavated a small section to show that the brick sub-structure is sound, and the treads are now being moved back into position.

Jim of DBR pausing to let me admire the quality of his masonry work.

A conservation project of this scale requires careful liaison and management, and regular project team meetings are held to review progress and to discuss discoveries made during works and any changes to the methods or scope of the work. The conservation is being carried out by DBR Conservation supervised by the architects Consarc Design Group. Project management and curatorial oversight is being provided by English Heritage, and colleagues from Historic England Planning Group are monitoring the work which is being carried out under Scheduled Monument Consent.

The project team inspects work to the stairs

Opportunities for excavation are limited, but I did help to locate a missing stretch of Portland stone coping, blown off a stair wall by the blast of a bomb on 26th August 1940.

The coping of a stretch of stair parapet, as recovered by limited excavation

This phase of work, due to finish in late 2017 or early 2018, is a good start, but more remains to be done to open up more sections of the fort for use. We are currently trialling a waterproofing technique for the casemates, which are currently too damp for occupation, and other buildings await a new lease of life.

Lastly, the work is being carried out with due regard to the ecology of the site as well as to its archaeology and architecture. Ecological surveys have been undertaken to ensure that the fauna and flora of the fort are being protected, and our resident foxes have managed to raise a litter of four cubs while the work has proceeded around their den in a deep bomb crater. Helped, as usual, by the generosity of Pete the security guard.

George the fox, a hunter-gatherer rather than a hunter.

If it’s Friday it must be Construction!

Construction and renovations are today’s theme here at the SFU Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology and have been for several weeks now!  Staff and volunteers have been busy packing and moving exhibits and artifacts.  It’s been a lot of work and inconvenience for everyone here, but we’ve managed.

And despite the Museum being closed, we continue to be active online.  This week we updated the Museum’s website, adding a new virtual exhibit “Beyond the Masks”, about wooden masks from different parts of Africa which are part of the Museum’s collection.  It was curated by two student volunteers.



SMALL FINDS CONSERVATOR IN SIDON, LEBANON (2) Bronze corrosion. If it’s fluffy, slimy or smelly, it’s bad!

Part of the reason I enjoy coming to work in Sidon is that I did my early training in the old British Museum Department of Western Asiatic Antiquities so many of the finds here are familiar types. Also, I am totally unfazed by massive corrosion. Sidon is a seaport and the soil is both damp and full of salts. Our metals tend to be more mineral samples, really.

Owl coin from Sidon

Owl coin from Sidon

All conservators have the usual chemical remedy they go to for active bronze corrosion: benzotriazole. It was originally used in industry to treat exterior bronze or copper architectural features like metal rooves but it was soon found to be useful in treating corroded antiquities. (A preliminary note on the use of benzotriazole for stabilizing bronze objects. Authors: Madsen, H. Brinch; Source: Studies in conservation, Volume 12, Number 4, p.163-167 (1967))

It pretty well solves 99.9% of bronze problems but, occasionally, you come up against an object and know that good old BTA just isn’t going to work. One such item was a coin I cleaned here in 2014. The corrosion was thick with soil deposits bonded into the corrosion with silicates. I managed to get the coin reasonably legible but I knew it had thick waxy deposits of cuprous chloride running under the surface detail. I could not remove the chloride manually without destroying the remaining detail. All I could do was immerse the coin in benzotriazole solution for some days and then give it a protective coat of acrylic. This year I thought I would revisit the coin and check how it was doing. Sometimes it is no fun to be proved right. The poor little coin of Athens was covered in the classic fluffy emerald green crystals of active bronze disease. However, it was only when I began to remove the crystal eruptions that I realised that they had burst through a thin layer of silver foil, as well as the overlying copper corrosion. The coin was a contemporary ancient fake silver coin. A copper alloy coin had been covered in two discs of silver foil like a chocolate coin, the edges burnished round. Our coin expert will have to tweak his coin catalogue a little!

And it’s back in the benzotriazole again for the Athenian coin and this time it will get the additional treatment of an application of black silver oxide, an even older method I was taught in the old Department of WAA. The result is not as subtle as BTA as there will be a slight change of colour and texture as the silver bonds with the chloride ions to form a stable “scab” of inert silver chloride, sealing off the potentially active cuprous chloride (….or that is how they taught the chemistry to me in old WAA)

Yesterday on site the archaeologists had been baffled by uncovering dozens of hard white points. Next thing I know, an enormous antler has arrived in my workshop. Another problem I can throw so old trusted chemicals at!



My name is Pippa Pearce and though I have been earning my living as an antiquities conservator all my life, I still take working holidays to have the opportunity to treat items that would not normally come my way. Our day starts with coffee, boiled up in a pan at 5am.

Brewing Coffee

Brewing Coffee

I have been told I have to let the coffee froth up and remove it from the heat three times, but it is hard to do that early without making a mess of the stove. Our vehicle arrives to take us to site at 5.30 am. The finds are stored and processed in a building next to the site and I have a workroom on the second floor. I bring lamps with rechargeable batteries so that I can use the microscope, even when the power is off.

The microscope at Sidon

The piece of paper clipped up is a list of all the finds that have been issued to me for conservation and it is part of the paper trail that tracks the whereabouts of all the finds in the building. Of course, it also doubles as my ‘To Do’ list.

Conservation list