Many people associate the Valles Caldera National Preserve with the preservation of natural resources and recreational opportunities such as hiking, hunting and fishing.
But humans have been visiting the Valles Caldera for at least 10,000 years, making the preserve a major archeological resource. Only 15 percent of the preserve’s 89,000acres has been checked for archeological sites, but evidence suggests widespread seasonal occupation throughout caldera, stretching back to the late Paleo-Indian era.
For the past week, Earthwatch volunteers have been at the preserve helping archeologists further their knowledge of that early occupation, the final phase of a three-year project in Obsidian Valley. Earthwatch provides both volunteers and grant money for serious scientific research projects such as this one.
This is not the “sexiest” Earthwatch project, having little of the instant gratification that comes from unearthing a hearth site or a piece of pottery. But the work those volunteers are doing will form the foundation for understanding human history throughout the preserve.