staff

Michele Koons, PhD


Dr. Michele Koons studies ancient complex societies and is especially interested in ancient political dynamics, social networks, and how people of the past interacted with their environment. In her research, Michele uses different geophysical methods and traditional archaeological techniques, such as excavation and pedestrian survey. She also specializes in ceramic analysis and radiocarbon dating. Michele has conducted archaeological research throughout the United States, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and China. Michele grew up outside of Philadelphia and attended the University of Pittsburgh for her BA. After interning at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, she moved to Colorado and worked at the Museo de las Americas in Denver and in cultural resource management in Wyoming. Michele then attended the University of Denver for her MA degree, where she explored the site of Tiwanaku in Bolivia. Michele went on to Harvard University for her PhD and pursued research on the Moche archaeological culture of Peru. While at Harvard, Michele worked at the Peabody Museum and volunteered at the Boston Museum of Science. After defending, she took a postdoctoral position at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and was hired as curator a year later. Michele currently conducts research in the American Southwest, on Colorado’s Front Range, and in Peru. She curates the Museum’s archaeological collections from Latin American, North America, and Egypt.

Check out the latest on Instagram at @dr.michele.koons and YouTube.  



Women in Science: Dr. Michele Koons

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is home to many amazing Women in Science. From anthropology to food services, guest services, leadership and much more, these individuals help the Museum and its guests learn, grow and get excited about science! To honor that, we will be running a Women in Science series to highlight some of our incredible staff and their work.

First up is Dr. Michele Koons! Dr. Koons is a Curator of Archaeology, and specializes in Andean, Southwest, and public archaeology. She has conducted archaeological research throughout the United States, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and China. She’s also going to France soon for a project! Get to know Dr. Koons by watching this video, and be sure to follow her on Instragram at @dr.michele.koons for more on her latest work.

Pañamarca Landscapes, Nepeña Valley, Peru

Pañamarca in the Nepeña Valley, Peru, has inspired explorers, archaeologists, artists, and historians for generations. Situated atop a granite outcrop, the site consists of an imposing stepped adobe platform, two lower—yet expansive—adobe platforms, a large adobe walled plaza, and numerous smaller structures. Elaborate multicolored Moche period (500–800 CE) murals depicting priests, warriors, and supernatural beings decorate the plaza and platform walls. Excavation and documentation of some of these murals took place in 2010 by Dr. Lisa Trever. In addition to the Moche component to the site, earlier and later stone architecture and ceramics indicate that people were using the site from at least 2,300 years ago up until the 1300s CE. The current research program is a collaboration between Dr. Trever (Columbia University), Dr. Hugo Ikehara (Pontifical Catholic University of Chile), Dr. Marco Pfeiffer (University of Chile, Santiago) and Denver Museum of Nature & Science curator Dr. Michele Koons. The work aims to better understand the cultural chronology of the site and past use and development of the surrounding landscape.

Ancient Mummies, New Discoveries

In 2016, as the Museum prepared to update its Egyptian Hall, staff scientists decided to reexamine two ancient Egyptian mummies and three coffins. A trip to Children’s Hospital Colorado for CT scans was just part of a journey to uncover information about the unknown women wrapped in ancient linens. From new translations and analysis of coffin construction and wood to radiocarbon dating, find out what the latest science brought to light. Dr. Michele Koons, curator of archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and Dr. Caroline Arbuckle MacLeod, postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia, will share the most exciting findings detailed in their new book “The Egyptian Mummies and Coffins of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science."

The Marvelous Moche: A Pre-Inca Ancient Civilization from Peru’s North Coast

This presentation will explore the politics and power of the Moche archaeological culture (250-900 AD) of the North Coast of Peru. Moche’s distinct archaeological signatures (exquisitely decorated ceramics, monumental architecture, polychrome murals, metalwork, etc.) have long been seen as the first evidence for a South American state. However, current scholars have begun to pull apart these assumptions and view Moche as a more complex mosaic of interacting settlements across a landscape. I will explore the evidence that supports this current trend in thinking.

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