Amy Gillaspie is an archaeologist with experience in Colorado, North Dakota, Belize, and France. For her Master’s Thesis research, she analyzed a collection of Classic Maya figurines and musical instruments that were ritually included as offerings in terminal deposits in households and at the elite center of Baking Pot, Belize. This research prompted an interest in working to better understand human behavior and adaptations during times of social change and political upheaval. Recently, Amy has excavated with the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands in northern France, working to recover a US soldier lost in combat during World War II. Additionally, Amy has assisted in leading excavations at historic Denver sites, including the Wotton Site on Auraria Campus in Downtown Denver, and more recently at the historic Astor House in Golden, Colorado. At Denver Museum of Nature & Science, her work focuses on the Jones-Miller collection, excavated by the Smithsonian in the 1970s.
In Summer 2021, the Astor House Community Archaeology Project (AHCAP) took place in an exciting collaboration between the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Metcalf Archaeological Consultants, and the new leasee of the historic building, Foothills Art Center. Opened in 1867 in Golden, Colorado, the Astor House was at various times both a hotel and boarding house until 1971, at which point it was saved from being torn down by community efforts and the Golden Landmark Association. It then reopened as the Astor House Hotel Museum where visitors learned about the 104-year history of the boarding house. After closing in 2015, the City of Golden worked to find new use for the beloved and historic building. In 2022, Foothills Art Center will house artists, classrooms, galleries, and offices in the National Landmark building.
Over three weeks in June and July 2021, 29 volunteers uncovered over 20,000 artifacts from targeted excavations in the backyard of the building. These artifacts tell of the long history of the boarding house and museum, and include remains of foods cooked and served at the house, trash and refuse, and personal items, including coins, buttons, and combs. Volunteers included archaeologists from local Cultural Resource Management firms, as well as many students representing Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, University of Colorado Denver, University of Denver, and Community College of Denver. Before closing and refilling the three excavation units, Community Connections, LLC gave sold out tours to the public during Foothills Art Center Art Week, where in just two days over 200 guests saw the finished and open excavation units, learned about archaeology, stratigraphy, and the artifacts recovered, toured the interior of the building, and learned about the future plans for the space as an artistic and community hub from Foothills Art Center.
Artifact analysis is coming to a close and more information on the findings will be available soon. For updates check the official project Instagram page at @astorhousearchaeologyproject or reach out to Project PIs, Amy Gillaspie and Dr. Michele Koons!