Old campbells painted water can

A grant from the Colorado Historical Society provided funding for an archeological survey of the present campus grounds. The survey conducted by archeologist William R. Arbogast and a number of his students identified about 30 sites used by Plains Indians from about 100 A.D. to about 1400 A.D.

In the summer of 1997, Professor William Arbogast, with a number of anthropology students, and funded by a grant from the Colorado Historical Fund, completed an archeological survey of the campus including the Heller and Trembly properties. The group surveyed at 30 foot intervals and found 38 sites. Thirty of these presented evidence of prehistoric occupation, and 10-12 of historical (1750- ) occupation. In addition, the group made over 20 isolated finds. In addition to the material relating to Plains Indians, there are remnants of the railroad grade form the Santa Fe Railroad, from General Palmer’s water delivery system ( Northfield, now called Rampart Reservoir), from the CCC work in the 1930s, etc.

Most of the Indian sites represent lithic procurement and include cherz and quartzite from the Dawson formation. This was a prime tool-making area. In addition, there were camp sites, and several possible vision quest (or lookout or sheepherding) sites. One half of the sites are eligible for listing on the National Register but have not been. Radio carbon dating of one of the sites dates the site to about 320 A.D.

NOTE that the period between 100-1,000AD represented a heavier population density in this area than after 1,000 AD. After 1,000 there appears to have been a move further south.

Almost two millennia before any students began studying here, a small group of ancestral American Indians set up camp overlooking an arroyo on the west edge of what is now the campus. The buried charcoal from their campfire yielded a radiocarbon date of their stay: 1860 years ago. There are four other possible campsites on the campus that have yet to be investigated and dated. We can’t be sure of the reason for their visits, but they most likely came to collect raw materials for stone tools from the outcrops in the bluffs above the campus. Others had preceded them (perhaps as far back as 10,000 years ago) and left evidence of testing and chipping cobbles of cherts and quartzites; more than a dozen of these “lithic procurement” sites dot the campus.

The earliest of these people to utilize the area cannot be definitively associated with any known tribal groups. The group that left their dated campfire might possibly have been ancestral Pawnee, and we know the Apache, Comanche and Kiowa were in the general area in the 17 th and 18 th centuries. We can identify the American Indians who were here at the time of the first western settlements; Arapahoe, Cheyenne and Ute are the names Europeans gave to those peoples. The latter, the Utes, may have constructed the few small stone enclosures on the campus and to the north in Pulpit Rock Park that might have been used as “vision quest” sites.

The first archaeological evidence for the arrival of Euro-American peoples on the campus is from the railroads. The Santa Fe Railroad built its line along the east side of Monument Creek in the 1870s; the remnants of the old grade, including an impressive stonework culvert can still be seen along the western boundary of the campus. Henry Austin, for whom the bluffs were named, purchased a large part of what is now the campus in 1873, and he grazed sheep on the bluffs in the 1880s, employing Hispanic shepherds from New Mexico and Southern Colorado; those shepherds are also potential candidates for the construction of the stone enclosures described above. The Austin Bluffs Land and Water Company was granted a right-of-way for a water line across the campus in 1888; the old water pipes can still be seen in several locations; it served Colorado Springs until it was abandoned in 1969. A reservoir from this system remained until students painted it to look like a Campbell’s Cream of Elephant Soup can and a humorless administrator ordered the reservoir torn down. The foundation remains today. The best archeology in the region is at Ft Carson. Federal regulations require extensive surveys and documentation. The Colorado State Historic Fund does provide funding for archeological surveys.


Ellwood, Priscilla. Native American Ceramics of Eastern Colorado. Natural history inventory of Colorado. Number 21, April 2002. Boulder: University of Colorado Museum, 2002

“The Shepherds of Colorado.” Harper's new monthly magazine. Volume 60, Issue 356, January 1880.


Stone circles—what was their purpose? Where else does one find them?

Possible field archaeology on campus: caretaker’s home, trash dumps, etc.