New Report Highlights Massive Economic Benefits of Archaeology in Colorado
Carefully managing some of the world’s most beautiful archaeological sites helped Colorado draw $10.5 billion from heritage tourism in a single year, and supports several opportunities to commemorate Native American Heritage Month this November.
DENVER — Oct. 21, 2021 — A new report is showing that Coloradans had a lot to celebrate when they observed International Archaeology Day this past Saturday, October 16.
Now available at archaeologybenefitscolorado.com, Archaeology for a Changing Colorado offers a comprehensive new picture of the field’s bedrock importance to Colorado’s economic, social, and environmental vitality. Made possible by a grant from the History Colorado State Historical Fund, the report offers insights relevant to rural areas and major urban centers alike. It is released as History Colorado’s Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation rolls out newly optimized services and fees at historycolorado.org/file-access.
While the economic and social benefits of this work are myriad, the report shows that the primary impact of archaeological work comes from its fundamental and robust support for heritage tourism, which generated $10.5 billion in direct spending in Colorado and supported 79,000 jobs here in 2019 alone. Colorado’s scenic and historic byways—many of which, such as the 480-mile Trail of the Ancients, specifically highlight Colorado’s archaeological resources—provide one of the most widespread and accessible ways for Coloradans to enjoy and benefit from archaeological exploration within this sector. Since 2015, tourist spending along Colorado’s 26 byways resulted in almost 29,000 jobs and over $1.2 billion in labor earnings. Thirteen of Colorado’s 26 byways are also designated as America’s Byways by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation—more national designations than any other state.
This Native American Heritage Month (November 2021), Coloradans can discover the state’s newest byway, which is the 125-mile Tracks Across Borders Byway that connects Durango with Chama, New Mexico. Via the sovereign nations of the Southern Ute and the Jicarilla tribes, it includes cultural heritage sites like Chimney Rock National Monument and the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum. Members of Colorado’s two resident tribal nations are key stakeholders, partners, and beneficiaries of Colorado’s archaeological work. In 2019, the estimated impact of the 134 Colorado museums that focus on archaeology, anthropology, Native American history and culture, and state and local history (which often includes Native American history) was more than $534 million. This includes the creation of over 8,000 jobs paying over $380 million in labor income.
Archaeology is the study of the human past through material culture, or artifacts. Colorado is home to some of the most culturally sensitive, scientifically significant, and beautiful archaeological sites in the world, ranging from internationally prominent parks and monuments to tens of thousands of undetected sites. Archaeological sites are widespread in Colorado, and the benefits that come from archaeological investigations contribute to the prosperity of communities throughout all corners of the state. In addition to studying economic findings, readers can explore maps, photos, and 22 highlighted projects in the report, which was prepared by Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and Clarion Associates working closely with the Office of the State Archaeologist at History Colorado.
Mining sites and ghost towns in mountain communities, old homesteads on the Great Plains, rock art on the Western Slope, and Indigenous sites in the San Luis Valley demonstrate the statewide scope of archaeology’s benefits to all Coloradans. Places like Dolores, Fairplay, Pagosa Springs, Trinidad, and Wray show that rural and small-town Colorado is rich with sites of great archaeological importance. Archaeological sites in urban areas also benefit rapidly growing communities by preserving land and minimizing urban sprawl, exemplified by the Magic Mountain site in Golden.
In the spirit of healing and education, we acknowledge the 48 contemporary tribes with historic ties to the state of Colorado. These tribes are our partners. We consult with them when we plan exhibits; collect, preserve, and interpret artifacts; do archaeological work; and create educational programs. We recognize these Indigenous peoples as the original inhabitants of this land.
Image Credits: Chimney Rock National Monument on the Tracks Across Borders Byway. Photo: History Colorado; Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum on the Tracks Across Borders Byway. Photo Credit: Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
About the History Colorado State Historical Fund
History Colorado's State Historical Fund (SHF) fosters heritage preservation through tangible and highly visible projects for direct and demonstrable public benefit. A 1990 constitutional amendment legalizing gambling in Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek created the SHF, which is the nation’s largest program of its kind. In 2020, 30 years after the start of the State Historical Fund, a total of 4,743 grants had been awarded, contributing $315,892,480 in all 64 Colorado counties. The fund launched a new series of non-competitive grants and a new SHF guidebook this year, available on the SHF website. A yearlong 30th-anniversary exhibit, titled State Historical Fund Retrospective, opened at the History Colorado Center this spring and remains on view through April 30, 2022.
About the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation
History Colorado’s Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP) creatively engages Coloradans in partnership to discover, preserve, and take pride in our architectural, archaeological, and other historic places by providing statewide leadership and support to our partners in archaeology and historic preservation. Since 1966, OAHP oversees activities related to the National Historic Preservation Act including the section 106 process, the National and State Registers of Historic Places, the historic tax credit program, and the Certified Local Government (CLG) program, among others. In addition, OAHP is home to the Office of the State Archaeologist, who is responsible for the state’s important archaeological sites as well as administering the Program for Avocational Archaeological Certification (PAAC), the state curation program, and our growing network of state repositories. OAHP maintains a database of 250,000 of Colorado’s historic and cultural places.
About History Colorado
History Colorado is a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and a 501(c)3 non-profit that has served more than 75,000 students and 500,000 people in Colorado each year. It is a 142-year-old institution that operates ten museums and historic sites, a free public research center, the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, and the History Colorado State Historical Fund (SHF), which is the nation’s largest preservation program of its kind. More than 70% of SHF grants are allocated in rural areas of the state.
History Colorado’s mission is to create a better future for Colorado by inspiring wonder in our past. We serve as the state’s memory, preserving and sharing the places, stories, and material culture of Colorado through educational programs, historic preservation grants, collecting, outreach to Colorado communities, the History Colorado Center and Stephen H. Hart Research Center in Denver, and nine other museums and historic attractions statewide. History Colorado is one of only six Smithsonian Affiliates in Colorado. Visit HistoryColorado.org, or call 303-HISTORY, for more information.