Updates from the Lab 2017

2017 Research Update (February 5, 2018)

Author: Erica Bradley, Colorado State University

Since mid-September, we, four student interns, have been hard at work cataloging and analyzing the 2017 Magic Mountain field collections. You can find us tucked away in the back of the museum in the “Pest Mitigation Lab”, which is normally used for freezing zoological specimens, but thanks to Dr. Michele Koons, has become a well-equipped archaeological laboratory.


The cataloging process begins with sorting the artifacts from each provenience (x, y, z coordinate location) into categories including: ‘lithics’ (projectile points, other stone tools, and flakes), ‘ground stone’ (manos and metates), ‘ceramics’, ‘faunal’ (animal bones), ‘botanical’ (seeds and other plant debris), ‘historic’, and ‘other’. An example of something we have classified as ‘other’ were pieces of red ochre (pigment), one of which was the size of a fist. After sorting, we carefully clean the artifacts with toothbrushes and place them in a custom-made drying rack. When everything is clean, dry, and sorted, they are put into archival-grade bags and are assigned a catalog number. Finally, the artifacts are photographed using studio equipment and their information is entered into the museum’s anthropology database.


Then begins the fun work— lithic analysis. At this point, we break out the magnifying headbands, calipers, and scales to collect quantitative and qualitative data that, once compiled, will help us understand the types of activities that were taking place at Magic Mountain. One interesting discovery was the identification of several microliths, which are thought to be a type of specialized technology used in composite tools. We can also identify where stone was quarried for stone tool manufacture, and this may inform us about migration patterns and trade. So far, most of the raw materials appear to be from a petrified wood forest near Parker, and a lot of this material has undergone heat treatment. We also suspect that some of the chert and chalcedony may from originate from as far as Middle Park, South Park, and northeastern Colorado.

Project Overview

Nestled in the foothills along Lena Gulch in Golden, CO, Magic Mountain is proclaimed to be one of the most important archaeological sites on Colorado’s Front Range.

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Fieldwork 2017

In June 2017, we returned to the site to excavate areas of interest identified in our 2016 geophysical surveys and with our goals of better understanding the Early Ceramic Period.

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One of the major goals of this project is to change this by reviving excavation efforts through citizen science project to learn more about this significant site and publish both popular and scholarly literature.

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