College interns studying archaeology gain real-world experience every spring and summer at Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum.
The three-month internship includes housing and is offered through the National Council of Preservation and Education of the U.S. Department of Interior.
This year, the young professionals are Monica Bugbee, Emily Coate and Caitlyn Fischman. They all work in the curation department, cataloging collections and learning about museum operations.
Bugbee is working on a master’s degree that combines paleontology and archaeology from St. Cloud State University, Minnesota.
At Canyons of the Ancients Museum, she is helping to catalog the Haystack Cave collection discovered in Gunnison County. The upper layers of the cave floor contain Native American artifacts. Lower layers contain paleontological layers filled with bones of ancient animals, including one from the extinct American cheetah.
“The cave was excavated in the 1990s, and we are entering the information into a database so it is accessible and searchable for researchers,” Bugbee said.
Coate is seeking a doctorate in Egyptian archaeology from the University of Memphis. As an intern, she is studying stone tools of ancient Native American culture and learning techniques used to create them.
There are similarities to the toolmaking process in ancient Egypt, she said.
“Getting to work in a large museum is a new experience for me,” Coate said. “The sheer number of artifacts here is impressive.”
The number of archaeological sites to visit in the area also is inspiring, she said. This is her first visit to the Four Corners, and she plans to tour the COA monument, Hovenweep National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park.
She said an interesting example of modern technology in archaeology is using satellite imagery to detect grave robbers.
After working in the field as a professional archaeologist, Caitlyn Fischman decided to pursue a master’s degree in historic preservation from the University of Oregon.
As an intern at the museum, she is analyzing and cataloging prehistoric artifacts recovered from a construction site in La Plata County. Evidence shows the area is where stone tools were produced. And nearby fire pits show it was occupied by ancestral Puebloans in the 1100s and 1200s.
Fischman has been especially impressed by the collection of ancient Native American sandals made of yucca at the COA museum.
“They give you an appreciation of their skills and the durability of the natural materials they used,” she said. “How cultures before us adapted to their environment is impressive.”