MONTICELLO, Utah— Southeast Utah’s Montezuma Canyon is believed to hold many buried treasures. This October 11-17, the precise nature of these treasures can be discovered on a trip hosted by Southwest Ed-Ventures. “Archaeological Excavation in Southeast Utah” is open to just 15 individuals, adventure seekers with an eagerness to learn and practice field excavation skills with professional archaeologists in the remote and rugged canyon on the Colorado plateau.
The seven-day, six-night adventure, departing and returning to Cortez, Colo., is a typical Southwest Ed-Venture trip. Each experience is led by experts in their fields, to combine “hands-on” learning with the pleasures of travel to spectacular, “under-the-tourism radar” sites in the American Southwest.
At the heart of this journey, are the archaeological remains of a Puebloan (Anasazi) culture who subsisted as farmers in the Canyon more than 1,300 years ago. This project is on private lands, and very little information has been gained since 1974 when the last surveys of the canyon were taken. Therefore, today much of the area’s prehistory remains a mystery to the archaeological community. This October, archaeologists hope some of their questions will be answered by a team of curious travelers willing to get their hands dirty in the interest of scientific discovery.
The ultimate goal of the expedition is to dig test pits into a kiva, a semi-underground compound typically constructed with many rooms believed to be used by the Anasazi for spiritual and/or civil ceremonies .
The excavation is led by two learned archaeologists who oversee the project and teach travelers to conduct the first stage of any archaeological endeavor; testing components of the site for clues. (A site is deemed to have good integrity if the deposits are mostly intact and complete.) Once an integrity determination is made, research objectives and a detailed excavation plan can be put into place. Participants in this journey will search for clues on how this culture lived and prospered on the site more than a millennium ago. Clues are revealed only by careful, methodical examination of each site component. To accomplish this, travelers are taught map and survey techniques, field photography, identification of artifacts and more. Once the integrity is documented, structures and artifacts can be preserved at the Edge of the Cedars Museum for future generations.
Yet, this once-in-a-lifetime adventure is definitely not “all work, no play.” It features one day-long guided tour to explore the many wonders of Montezuma Canyon including hikes to remote, rarely seen rock art.
Past participants of Southwest Ed-Venture excavation trips say assisting in scientific research was a rewarding experience. Many report gaining a deeper understanding of ancient cultures, and an even greater appreciation for the archaeologically rich lands of the American Southwest.
This program is rated easy, requiring good health and the ability to endure elevations up to 6,500 feet. Cost is $943 per person including all meals from dinner on day one to breakfast on day seven, transportation from/to Cortez, Colo. airport, expert staff and guides, group equipment, and fees. The trip is co-sponsored by Elderhostel. The campsite features a cave for the kitchen, solar showers, and healthy/hearty meals. Places can be reserved at the website or by calling Southwest Ed-Ventures at 1-800-525-4456.
Southwest Ed-Ventures is a for-profit arm of the Four Corners School, a non-profit aiming to create lifelong learning experiences on the Colorado Plateau (through education, service, conservation, and adventure programs.) The vision of FCS is to build a diverse community of people committed to conserving the natural and cultural treasures of this bioregion. To learn more about Southwest Ed-Ventures visit them on the web at www.sw-edventures.org.