By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely | 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 50th Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Element organized Schriever’s first archaeological survey in more than 30 years, July 6-24 here.
The survey will provide the Environmental Element with information needed to sign programmatic agreements. A programmatic agreement allows the element to track construction projects on an annual basis. This means the base would consult with the state and tribes yearly instead of doing so with every project.
To conduct the survey, the Environmental Element contracted archaeologists from Metcalf Archaeology Consultants to survey more than 3,000 acres on Schriever.
“The main goal was to locate anything older than 50 years old,” said Clive Briggs, Metcalf Archaeological Consultants project director. “It’s our job then to date it and figure out what it means. We found the remains of homesteads from the early 20th century, when people were first settling in the area and the main thing they were doing was ranching. We also found projectile points (Native American arrowheads) that are prehistoric (before settlers arrived in the area).”
The survey will allow the crew to sweep the installation and determine what cultural resources are present. A cultural resource can be anything from a 10,000 year old tool to a historic homestead from 100 years ago. The projectile points found dated back to 7,800 years ago, along with stone tools, foundations of old ranches and old toys that date back to the 1930s.
All findings will be recorded and reported to tribes who have interest in the area. Findings that are considered historically significant will be protected by federal law, meaning the installation could not destroy or construct the area which is deemed significant.
“We didn’t really know what was out there,” Lawton said. “We’re legally required by the National Historic Preservation Act to protect any cultural resources we may have or that may be of interest to any tribes [who] occupied this area, [and] this [survey] will give us a much clearer image of what we’ve got here and what we need to protect.”
The primary reason this was the first survey in more than 30 years was a lack of funding.
“A lot of our previous surveys proceeded without GPS,” Lawton said. “They were done in the early 80s when the only way to locate an archaeological site was to triangulate based on land forms. That made it harder to find and protect cultural resources because we didn’t know where anything was. Now [that] the archaeological crews are working with GPS units, we can walk right out to what we need to protect and know if a proposed project will affect the sites.”
The original survey was scheduled to occur in April or May, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak the 50th CE Environmental Element had to postpone the survey.
“Being stewards of the land is really important,” said Jasmine Saxon, Metcalf Archaeological Consultants archaeology technician. “Being on base, this land is owned by the government and it’s important [they] set the standard for everyone — that we need to protect and document [what we find]. We need to tell the stories that were here so we can learn the significance of this land and come together and connect through that storytelling.”
Schriever will perform an archaeological survey every 10 years going forward.
“Schriever Air Force Base is part of a bigger story — it was once a crossroads for people moving around the landscape — from as far away as the Dakotas and New Mexico to meet and trade. Then, it became a part of the American expansion West and homesteading, pioneering and ranching. There’s a long story here besides the Air Force story,” said Lawton.