Arrowheads, tools on rural land date back 1,000 to 2,000 years
ASPEN – Pitkin County commissioners meetings are rarely a setting that elicits “oohs” and “ahhs” – unless the board members are touring a site where scores of arrowheads and other projectiles and tools have been discovered.
The five commissioners and a sizable contingent walked undeveloped land owned by David Brown and Jody Anthes on Thursday and saw the impressive array of archaeological artifacts for themselves. Melissa Elkins, an archaeological consultant for the landowners, described why the find is significant.
“It’s definitely a bigger prehistoric site,” Elkins said. “The fact that there are a lot of tools suggests there were a lot of people here.”
While scores of artifacts are visible, similar to pottery shards at Anasazi sites in Utah, hundreds more might be covered by vegetation or buried, Elkins said.
Among those that are visible are arrowheads and spearheads of different sizes, which indicate that they were used to hunt different prey, she said. There is a partial blade of a quartzite knife. There are several scraping tools made of chert.
“I’m almost afraid to step,” said Lisa Hancock, vice president and curator of collections at the Aspen Historical Society. She was impressed with what she saw on the tour. She noted that the museum will open a display on Ute Indians June 19 with all the artifacts borrowed from elsewhere. While holding a scraper, Hancock said she had to borrow one just like it from Craig.
The Aspen Historical Society would jump at an opportunity to display some of the artifacts from the rural Pitkin County site, if some are ever removed temporarily or permanently, she said.
Elkins said the artifacts are from the most recent period of the Archaic Era, 1,000 to 2,000 years ago. The prehistoric Native American at that time moved around a lot. The Pitkin County site is likely a hunting camp – but one used intensively and possibly for a long period of time, she said. It is possible the people that used the site were ancestors of the Ute Indians, according to Elkins.
The find might have regional significance to some researchers, Elkins said. Other such sites have been found in Colorado, though the Pitkin County find is special. “The high elevation sites like this are a little rarer,” Elkins said.
The land is private and the area is posted with no trespassing signs. The owners don’t want the location disclosed because they don’t want to mess with looters or gawkers.
Brown said he has been aware of the artifacts for some time. The tools are made from rocks that were imported to the area. They gleam so they stand out more than the other rocks that litter the site, he said.
He and Anthes bought the property when it become available last year because they wanted to protect it. Brown wants to see the artifacts untouched.
They proposed to place the property on the Pitkin County Historic Register and surrender development rights. In return, they want Pitkin County to deem the parcel a constrained site that is undevelopable or severely constricted for development. They also want the county grant two transferable development rights. They could sell those on the free market to a builder who wants to increase the size of a house in what the county deems a receiving site.
The commissioners and county planning staff toured the site not only to see the artifacts, but to get a feel for the rest of the property. Brown said the only flat part of the parcel – away from the most visible concentration of artifacts – is thick with trees and vegetation. “You have to get down on the bear trails to get through there,” he said.
The commissioners will renew discussions about the issue on June 27.
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