The students in anthropology professor Warren Lail’s course, World Heritage Archaeology of the American West, experienced 13 sites in 17 days, from soaring cliff dwellings to ceremonial underground kivas and petroglyphs with astronomy features.
“One of the things that makes Highlands special is its close proximity to incredible archaeology wonders like Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico and Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado that provide our anthropology students with the opportunity to explore and learn about ancient Native American civilizations firsthand,” Lail said.
“With this kind of experiential learning, the students walk the same paths as the ancients did, see the world they lived in, and touch the ruins built thousands of years ago.”
Lail said Chaco Canyon is one of the most famous archaeological architectural ruins in the world, a pueblo civilization that flourished between A.D. 900 and 1150 during the pre-Columbian era. He said Mesa Verde has the largest concentration of cliff dwellings anywhere in the United States, dating back to A.D. 600.
Lail, who also serves as interim dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Highlands, said field experiences like this course are important because they help students understand and appreciate the complex lives of ancient Native Americans.
Elena Jiménez, an anthropology junior, is one of the six students who participated in the field experience.
“The size and scope of the archaeological ruins we saw like Mesa Verde and Walnut Canyon were breathtaking in person,” Jiménez, 22, said. “It’s extraordinary to see the capacity of ancient humans to build these magnificent structures without using modern tools and technology.”
Other UNESCO World Heritage sites included in the field experience are Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and Yosemite Valley National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California.
The Highlands students also explored significant archaeological sites like Walnut Canyon near Flagstaff, Ariz., Capitol Reef National Park in Utah, and Newspaper Rock State Historic Park near Moab, Utah.
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