PlainsAnthroSoc2 Dept. of Anthropology hosts 71st Annual Plains Anthropological Society ConferenceImage of

Dept. of Anthropology hosts 71st Annual Plains Anthropological Society Conference

From October 2-6th, over 400 anthropologists, students, and members of the public will come to northern Colorado for the 71st annual meeting of the Plains Anthropological Society, which this year will be held in Loveland at the Embassy Suites and Conference Center. The first Plains Anthropological Conference was held in Vermillion, South Dakota in 1931, and has been held annually since 1947. The conference offers researchers and professionals from across the Great Plains region a chance to catch up, share new research, and exchange ideas about how to grow and improve anthropological research and teaching. The Center for Mountain and Plains Anthropology at CSU, along with Dr. Jason LaBelle, faculty in the Department of Anthropology and Directorof the CMPA, are hosting the meeting with support from many students and colleagues across the Front Range. The conference attracts researchers from all subfields of anthropology, including archaeologists, and cultural, linguistic, and biological anthropologists. The group includes researchers and students from colleges and universities across the United States, Canada and even South Africa as well as professionals who work in the private and government sectors.


Anthropology students participating in a summer field school.

The conference will include 155 paper and 55 poster presentations as well as tours to archaeological sites in the area. Presentations this year cover a wide range of topics, including prehistoric and historic archaeological research on the Plains, the use of technology in archaeological research, ethnographic research being done in the region, and workshops to improve the quality of research in the region. While many of the presentations are organized based on general themes and topics, some sessions have been organized into symposia that focus on very specific issues, topics and regions. For instance, Dr. Robert Brunswig, Professor Emeritus at the University of Northern Colorado, and Dr. LaBelle organized a symposium on current archaeological research in the Rocky Mountainsand along the Colorado Front Range. The symposium will include papers by current and former CSU students, along with UNC personnel, and is described by the abstract below.  This is a sample of the type and style of presentations that will be at the conference.

Twentieth-First Century Advances in Archaeological and Supporting Studies of the Southern Rocky Mountains and their Eastern Foothills

Solid foundations of archaeological knowledge of the southern Rocky Mountains and their east-fronting foothills were built in the late 20th Century by an ever-expanding cohort of academic, cultural resource management, and government archaeologists. Early in the second decade of the 21st Century, those advances are rapidly accelerating with the accumulation of new archaeological field and laboratory research projects and, perhaps most significantly, with parallel studies in ancient climate and ecological change, absolute dating, geomorphic and geochemical analysis, and maturing applications of Global Positioning System and Geographic Information System technologies. This session explores a broad cross-section of research programs which illustrate emerging new knowledge and methods of past native societies in Rocky Mountains, focusing on montane and foothills regions and ecozones in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming.

The conference will also include evening festivities, such as a reception and dance party featuring the local rock/honky-tonk band, Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams as well as a banquet reception with keynote speaker. This year’s keynote address will be given by Dr. Douglas Bamforth, of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Dr. Bamforth got his BA in 1978 from the University of Pennsylvania and his MA (1981) and PhD (1986) from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He has worked on the Plains in Texas, Colorado, and Nebraska, on sites dating from Clovis through Plains Village times. Although most of his work has been on the Paleoindian period, his current field program focuses on the Ceramic Period occupation of the Pine Ridge area in northwestern Nebraska.

Doug writes that his talk, Ripples in a Mississippian Sea?, will discuss the connections between Mississippian societies, especially but not only Cahokia, and the appearance and development of horticultural ways of life on the Plains, especially but not only the Central Plains.  This is not a new topic, but he hopes to show that existing perspectives and knowledge lay the groundwork for new ways of thinking about these connections.  He will especially grapple with the variability that decades of archaeological research has documented, variability that is hard to make sense of in the taxonomic frameworks we have relied on so heavily for so long.  Instead of foci, phases, and complexes that were somehow influenced by their neighbors, he wants to talk about active choices made by local communities and households about how to deal with changes and opportunities offered by nearby complex societies.

Four tours of the local archaeology are being offered to the conference attendees. Three of them are described below.

“Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene Paleoindian Sites of the Kersey Terrace near Greeley, Colorado” will be led by Dr. Robert Brunswig, Professor Emeritus at the University of Northern Colorado. The Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene age Kersey Terrace of the South Platte River south and east of Greeley has long been known for its important Paleoindian sites, including the well-known Dent site, location of one of only a handful of Clovis mammoth kills. This Plains Conference tour, led by University of Northern Colorado Professor Bob Brunswig, visits the locations of several significant Paleoindian sites, Dent (Clovis), Klein (Clovis), Fox (Clovis), Powars (Folsom), Frazier (Agate Basin), and Jurgens (Cody) and explains their role and context within the South Platte landscape and environment of the Late Ice Age and early Holocene.

“19th Century Trading Posts of the South Platte River” will be led by Mr. Cody Newton, M.A. in Anthropology from CSU and current Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The tour group will be visiting the locations of four trading posts (Fort St. Vrain, Jackson, Lupton, and Vasquez) on the South Platte River that operated simultaneously for a brief period during the late 1830s.  I will be talking about these posts in terms of the larger social, economic, and environmental processes during their operation, as well as the influence of local Plains Indian groups on this trading locus.

“The Line Shack Draw (5LR110): 7,000+ years of Native American and Euro-American History in the Larimer County Foothills” will be led by Mr. Michael Troyer, current CSU graduate student in anthropology and an archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management in Cañon City and Ms. Meegan Flenniken, with the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources. The Line Shack Draw site (5LR110) is a multi-component site in northern Larimer County. Initial analysis suggests intermittent aboriginal occupation spanning the last 7000 years, with historic sheepherding and ranching components dating to the early 20th century –  all centered around a spring fed draw nestled in the hogbacks.  The site was first recorded by CSU in the early 1970s during the Boxelder Water Control Project, and further investigated  during the 2006 and 2007 CSU  Class II Survey of the Red Mountain Open Space, and the 2009 and  2011 CSU archaeological field schools. Surface inventories and subsurface testing indicate an extensive site with intact, buried components. CSU student archaeologists have now recorded three prehistoric hearth features, 1138 flakes, 57 formal tools, four stone circles, a prehistoric trade bead, two historic cabins, and a variety of historic artifacts from the large site.

By Chris Johnston, Anthropology M.A. student

More information about the conference can be found on the conference website: