Even as a young child, Anna Cordova loved history.
“The first time I remember a history class, we were studying the Revolutionary War,” said Cordova, the lead archaeologist for the city of Colorado Springs. “I was really into it. I thought it was fascinating, even from a really young age. I think I’ve always been drawn to that, even in the books and stuff I read. When I was about 16 I started thinking about applying to colleges and stuff. People told me I should think about being a historian, but I wanted to be outside, too.
“My mom told me she wanted to be an archaeologist when she was a teenager and had looked into, but that didn’t work out. At that time it kind of dawned on me, ‘Oh, you could do that?’ I didn’t know you could do archaeology if you weren’t in Egypt or something like that.”
Cordova, who received both her bachelor’s in anthropology and her master’s in geography and environment studies from UCCS, works to ensure the preservation of archaeological resources on city property.
“The word I always think of is ‘stewardship,’” she said. “We’re always trying to preserve the archaeological and cultural resources that we have on our city properties. A big part of that is trying to figure out what kind of resources we have, so taking inventory, figuring out what’s been archaeologically surveyed before. If it hasn’t been surveyed, depending on what’s going on, going out and looking at it. For example, if the Park Rangers decide they want to close a trail and put a new one on I always go and just look at the ground beforehand to see if there’s any artifacts that might indicate a site, especially buried deposits, and try to get ahead of those projects to make sure we’re not impacting anything negatively.”
Shortly after starting work with the city in 2016, Cordova helped uncover one of the most historically significant — for Colorado Springs, at least — archaeological finds in recent memory.
In 2016, Cordova was monitoring crews working along Camp Creek in Garden of the Gods Park at “a site that was already previously identified, but they had said it was not an eligible site, which means it’s not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places,” she recalled, “so we document what we can and then we move on — they found trash scattered from the turn of the century. With the work they were doing they uncovered more of it, and it turned out I was able to connect it to General [William Jackson] Palmer — hugely significant for Colorado Springs history. It was all of the trash from his entire occupation there at Glen Eyrie. We did a pretty big excavation to test it and take samples before it was impacted. A lot of it is on display at the Pioneers Museum right now.”
Cordova looks forward to continuing to survey and inventory the archaeological resources of Colorado Springs, which can be a daunting task as the city’s sole archaeologist. “My biggest overall goal is to figure out what kind of resources we have on all our open space properties,” she said. “We have a lot. Corral Bluffs, that’s our furthest east open space. There’s two properties out there, Corral Bluffs and Jimmy Camp. It’s a little overwhelming to go out there. Between the two properties that were surveyed there were nearly 500 archaeological resources they identified just on the ground, and there’s more that erodes out all the time, so that’s a significant property. I definitely want to do more surveying and see what we need to protect and preserve, but also just continue what we’ve been doing, strengthen our relationship with the Native American tribes that have connections around here.
“I’d like to grow the department. It’s kind of hard to do all of it with just me.”