The archaeology collection includes many significant artifacts, particularly from the American West, Latin America, and select objects from around the world

The archaeology collection includes many significant artifacts, particularly from the American West, Latin America, and select objects from around the world. The department has long been known for our Paleoindian collection, which includes the original Folsom point. Other significant Paleoindian collections include those from the Jones-Miller Site, the Dent Site, Lindenmeier Site, and Frazier Site, all in northern Colorado. Another notable collection from Colorado is from the Magic Mountain site near Golden, outside of Denver. We recently acquired the W. S. Ranch Archaeological Field School collection from west-central New Mexico. That collection will be a focus of cataloging and research activities for the next several years. In addition to WS Ranch, the Southwestern US collection contains representative pottery types from across the region as well as rare organic materials. Collections from Latin America include textiles, ceramics, stone materials, and organic remains representing all major ancient cultural groups, including the Maya, Aztec, Olmec, Inca, Nasca, Tiwanaku, and Moche, among others. The world archaeology collection is composed of artifacts from ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, Babylonia, and Sumeria.

Folsom Point

Professionally excavated collections have been curated since 1926 when Museum staff made one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century: projectile points embedded in the ribs of Bison antiquus, an extinct species of Ice Age bison, at the Folsom Site in northern New Mexico. This discovery revolutionized North American archaeology by pushing the known human occupation of North America back thousands of years, into the last Ice Age. Since then, other scientifically excavated Paleoindian collections (ca. 13,000–12,000 BP) have been curated at the Museum: the Dent Site southwest of Greeley, Colorado; the Lindenmeier Site north of Fort Collins, Colorado; the Frazier Site east of Greeley, Colorado; and Hannah Marie Wormington’s Archaic site excavations in western Colorado.

How the Folsom Point Became an Archaeological Icon

Why the Famous Folsom Point Isn't a Smoking Gun

Jones-Miller and Magic Mountain

Of particular importance are collections from the Jones-Miller and Magic Mountain sites. The Jones-Miller site (ca. 12,000 BP), in northeastern Colorado, was excavated in the 1970s. The collection includes more than 100 projectile points and the largest assemblage of bison skeletons ever found in one site. It therefore has tremendous potential for reconstructing the behavior of a single social unit engaged in a critically important subsistence task. The Magic Mountain site, located outside of Golden, is one of the most important archaeological sites in Colorado. Excavated in the 1990s, the collection contains over 5,000 artifacts dating from 1,000 to 9,000 BP. The collection and site are the subject of current research by Michele Koons, PhD.




World Archaeology Collection

Two thousand artifacts from ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, Babylonia, and Sumeria dominate the world archaeology collection. They provide the greater Rocky Mountain region with a unique resource facilitating the examination of diverse cultural paths along and the human evolutionary journey.

Latin American Collection

The Mesoamerican collection contains 2,000 objects representing all major ancient cultural groups, including the Maya, Aztec, and Olmec. Highlights include an Olmec greenstone figurine, a stone mask from Teotihuacan, and Huastec shell armband/anklets. The South and Central American collections include 900 objects representing the Inca, Nasca, and Moche, among others. Of particular importance are 133 whole ceramic vessels from Cochabamba, Bolivia, one of the largest such collections outside Bolivia. 

The Southwestern Collection

The Southwestern collection contains representative pottery types from across the American Southwest, including classic Mimbres black-on-white bowls from southwestern New Mexico, Salado polychrome from east-central Arizona, and Casas Grandes polychrome vessels from Paquimé, Chihuahua, Mexico. The collection includes rare organic materials, including exquisitely preserved yucca sandals from the Four Corners region and a split-twig figurine from southwestern Colorado, the earliest known example of this enigmatic artifact form. These collections continue to provide research and educational opportunities; Dr. Koons and Stephen E. Nash, PhD, rely on these collections as a vital resource for their ongoing work on Mogollon archaeology in the greater Reserve, New Mexico, region.



Erika Heacock

Assistant Collections Manager of Anthropology

Michele Koons, PhD

Associate Curator of Archaeology

Stephen E. Nash, PhD

Senior Curator of Archaeology and Director of Anthropology

Erin Baxter, PhD

Acting Curator of Anthropology

Libby Couch

Business Support Specialist III

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, it is in the Prehistoric Journey exhibition on the Museum's 3rd floor.

Highlights may be found in Crossroads of Culture: The Anthropology Collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2010).

The department acquires new items for the collections if the appropriate curator determines the objects fit within the specifications of the Long-Term Collections and Research Plan. The majority of new acquisitions are through donation because acquisition funds are severely limited. If you have a question regarding a potential donation, please email the Collections Manager photos of the object along with a basic description including information on how, when, and where you acquired the object(s). This information will then be passed along to the appropriate curator for consideration.

The department reviews requests for loans from the collections on a case-by-case basis. Please review our Guidelines for Borrowers. Please note that due to the various steps required to complete loan requests, the department requests at least four months between initial contact and the loan start date. There is no set fee for loans; however, there may be costs associated with conservation work, formal appraisals, object packing, and transport.

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