A Basket Older Than God…Well, Jesus

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Eagle Rock Shelter Colorado History
Visitors look into the nearly 13,000-year-old Eagle Rock Shelter along the Gunnison River.

More than 8,000 years before the pyramids were built and about 11,000 years before the cliff houses went up at Mesa Verde, humans took up housekeeping under a rock overhang along the Gunnison River. From that prime piece of prehistoric real estate on a natural rock terrace, they hunted mice and grouse and gathered wild grains and seeds.

Humans continually inhabited the Eagle Rock Shelter for 5,000 years. They left behind rock art and the detritus of everyday living. Because the site is under a rock overhang, some of the evidence of that occupation, including the second-oldest basked in the nation, has survived.

The shelter, on Bureau of Land Management land at the north end of the Gunnison Gorge, is not well known to the public but it is the earliest site of human occupation in Colorado. The site was first found by looters in the 1980s and efforts are now underway to preserve it.

Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner spoke with Glade Hadden, an archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management, and Bob Silbernagel, who heads the Colorado Canyons Conservation Association.