Ruins stabilized at M-CHS site

District’s plans for new school won’t disturb archaeological find

Ancient ruins at the site of the new Montezuma-Cortez High School have been stabilized and untouched, according to archaeological officials.

Thirty years ago, a company searching for gravel deposits to be used in transportation projects ran across the archaeological site in Cortez. Last year, Woods Canyon Archaeological Consultants surveyed the ruins, which is behind Wal-mart. The site was remapped prior to design and construction of the new Montezuma-Cortez High School.

“We wanted to avoid and protect the site during construction,” said archaeological consultant Jerry Fetterman.

Under authority of State of Colorado permit 2013-23, Fetterman led three archaeologists and nine volunteers to conduct a cultural resources investigation of the 100-square-foot site in April 2013. The Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 School District chose to preserve the site in its natural condition.

“There was no excavation of the site,” said Fetterman.

Project consultant Peter Robinson reiterated that the cultural site, which is believed to be a set of room blocks and a pit structure from the Pueblo II era, would not be disturbed, adding that the site was fenced and stabilized.

“Woods Canyon backfilled fragile portions of the site by hand,” explained Robinson.

Robinson said future plans could include developing the site as a type of outdoor student laboratory, but nothing specific has been determined.

Input about the prehistoric cultural resource was not sought from tribal communities, because the school district chose to avoid the site with its construction plan, said Robinson.

“The new school and surrounding grounds are designed to avoid the cultural site, leaving it undisturbed for future generations of all Americans,” he said.

According to Robinson, a Class III Archaeological Inventory of the entire 35-acre school property was prepared in accordance with the State of Colorado Resources Act of 1973 and in consultation with the Colorado State Archaeologist. The report was filed with the State Historic Preservation Office.

Fetterman added a literature search of the project area was also conducted prior to fieldwork. The site was originally recorded through the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation as 5MT8120.

Located on the northeast corner of the new school site, the ancient ruins include a pueblo and evidence of a chipping station, a place where stone tools were made, according to Fetterman.

A groundbreaking for the new $33.7 million Montezuma-Cortez High School was held in December. Construction of the new two-story 152,500-square-foot schoolhouse is on schedule. The facility is expected to open in fall 2015.