ARBOLES, Colo. – Putting together the pieces of the past isn’t easy for archaeologists. In the area around Navajo State Park, the ancient residents often moved from place to place, living in temporary shelters. At the nearby Chimney Rock Archaeological Area, they built a pueblo complex with twin sacred rock pinnacles. Archaeologists can learn a lot from just a few pieces of a broken pot, the ash stain from a cook fire, or grinding tools that might tell something about those ancient inhabitants, such as diet, which seasons they camped and even trade patterns. Even the smallest clues can open a window into their ancient lifestyle.

Dr. Wendy Sutton, District Archaeologist for the U.S. Forest Service, San Juan National Forest, Pagosa Springs, will speak at 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 30 at the Navajo State Park Visitors Center Conference Room. Dr. Sutton’s focus will be on the Upper San Juan Basin Prehistory along the Highway 151 Corridor that bisects Navajo Lake.

People have lived in the Upper San Juan Basin for over 10,000 years. During the basketmaker period, people in the Southwest became increasingly reliant on agriculture and the surrounding valley was dotted with corn fields and pit houses. By the Pueblo I Period – AD 750-900 – larger settlements would develop and then disappear. Major settlement concentrations developed near Navajo Lake and around Chimney Rock Archaeological Area. What do these settlements contribute to our understanding of the prehistory of the Southwest? How are they unique? These are the questions Sutton will discuss.

Sutton has worked in archaeology for over 25 years, working in multiple regions within North America and in the Middle East. Throughout her career she has worked in contract archaeology, as a federal archaeologist for the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, has designed and taught programs in archaeology education in public school systems, and has taught at multiple colleges and universities. She is currently employed as the Pagosa District Archaeologist on the San Juan National Forest. As part of this job, she works closely with the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association, an opportunity to help close the gap between research and the public that support that research. Chimney Rock Archaeological Area is currently in the process of becoming Colorado’s newest National Monument under Sen. Michael Benn

Sutton received her bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and Mesopotamian Art & Archaeology from the University of California, Berkeley, and holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University. Past honors include being a Mellon Scholar and a Visiting Scholar at the George Frison Archaeological Institute (University of Wyoming).

Anyone interested in archaeology and the prehistory of the area is welcome to attend the evening presentation. All events in the park are free with a Colorado State Parks pass – either a $7 day pass or an annual pass. Call 970-883-2208 for more information or log on to the park’s webpage at

Colorado Parks and Wildlife was created by the merger of Colorado State Parks and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, two nationally recognized leaders in conservation, outdoor recreation and wildlife management. Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, all of Colorado’s wildlife, more than 300 state wildlife areas and a host of recreational programs. To learn more about Colorado’s state parks, please see: To learn more about Colorado’s wildlife programs, please see:

Source: Colorado State Parks