The Conservancy has obtained a thirty-five acre parcel northwest of Cortez, Colorado, containing Shields Pueblo, a large Ancestral Puebloan site with primary occupation dates of A.D. 1050 to 1300, and an extended occupation dating back to at least A.D. 775.
Shields Pueblo is part of a concentration of prehistoric sites, some of which have been protected since 1889, when the land they were on was excluded from homesteading by the federal government because of the significance of their cultural resources. That action, which preceded the Antiquities Act of 1906, represents the first time the federal government set aside archaeological sites for protection.
Shields Pueblo is particularly important because it was a community center for this region, and it was occupied for centuries by a number of different prehistoric groups. In the mid-1900s local residents like Clifford Chappell conducted excavations at the site. Chappell, a forest ranger and avid amateur archaeologist from Dolores, mostly worked on sites on private farmland around Dolores and Cortez, and he kept meticulous notes on his discoveries. Several vessels recovered from Shields are part of the Chappell collection, now curated at the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument Visitor’s Center and Museum (formerly the Anasazi Heritage Center) located in Dolores. A burial found at Shields contained a copper bell that was manufactured in Mexico.