Gunnison County, Colorado
When detected in 2000 just outside Gunnison, the Mountaineer Site provided unprecedented evidence that rounded out archaeologists’ understanding of what Paleoindian hunters did when they weren’t hunting now-extinct Pleistocene-era megafauna.
Situated on Tenderfoot Mountain overlooking a river valley that would have been prime habitat for their preferred game, surface reconnaissance discovered 15 clusters of Paleoindian artifacts, including fluted Folsom points, the hallmark of a culture dating back over 10,000 years.
Excavations at one of the clusters uncovered a shallow rock-lined basin with a central hearth, artifacts used for processing food, and daub, The daub, a mud-clay mixture, had burned, preserving impressions of aspen poles—indicating that it had been used to fill spaces in the structure’s walls and roof. Outside the house archaeologists found a second hearth, more stone tools, and several postholes—remnants of a windbreak or a rack that could have been used for hanging or drying food.
Today the Mountaineer Site is owned by the state of Colorado, managed by Western State University, and used by telecommunications companies and radio stations that have towers on Tenderfoot Mountain. It is managed by a plan developed jointly by the state, the university, and the tower owners to balance the priorities of archaeological research and the tower owners. People can visit on tours scheduled by the university during the summer.