About ORCA

What is ORCA?

Online Resources for Colorado Archaeology and Historic Preservation (ORCA) is an open-access collection of resources and tools for archaeological research, cultural resources management, and heritage education in Colorado and adjacent states. The site includes a reference library, new scholarly content, resources for educators, students, and avocationals, and tools for communication and collaboration. ORCA is designed for both historic preservation professionals and avocationals. ORCA resources cover a broad range of topics and cultural periods, from the region’s earliest American Indian inhabitants to recent colonists, explorers, and settlers. Also included are resources on the region’s ancient and modern climate and environment.

Consider supporting ORCA and continued development with a donation to PCRG

ORCA resources and tools are designed for:

  • Federal and state agency archaeologists charged with managing cultural resources and making sound National Register of Historic Places eligibility determinations
  • Field archaeologists needing information about a specific region or site type
  • Cultural resource management professionals developing research designs or adopting new field or lab methods
  • Project proponents pursuing alternative mitigation strategies
  • Research archaeologists tackling grant-funded projects designed to answer specific research questions
  • College or university faculty introducing their students to the state’s complex archaeological record
  • Avocationals interested in reading about current research in the state or about current interpretations of the state’s archaeological record
  • Public school educators teaching archaeology, history, scientific methods, or environmental studies
  • Historic preservation professionals interested in delivering information about the state’s past to a broad audience
  • Archaeologists seeking collaborative opportunities or colleagues with specific expertise

The past 15 years have witnessed fundamental shifts in the ways archaeologists disseminate their research findings and interact with one another and with the public. Archaeologists increasingly are turning to online libraries and databases such as ORCA to access, integrate, and archive the growing cascade of analytic datasets, technical reports, and synthetic publications. Archaeologists also are making greater use of the collaborative possibilities that digital platforms like ORCA can provide.  Online publications and other digital media are also important for broadcasting the value of archaeology and historic preservation to a wide audience. ORCA is a springboard for expanding public engagement with the state’s past and for communicating the value of historic preservation.

ORCA provides a digital space for revising the statewide context documents published by the Colorado Council of Professional Archaeologists in 1999 and 2007. ORCA offers a dynamic, scalable platform for targeted and incremental context updates through the new online journal Reviews in Colorado Archaeology. ORCA also integrates those updates with a digital library of premier legacy and recent documents and tools for productive discussions among professionals, avocationals, and others.

About PCRG

ORCA is managed by Paleocultural Research Group, a 501[c][3] nonprofit organization that conducts scientific research, trains students, and educates the public on the archaeology of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. PCRG’s public archaeology projects use state-of-the-art field and lab methods to investigate human communities and their relationships to one another and to the natural environment. PCRG broadly disseminates its research findings to professional and public audiences, raising awareness of Plains and Rocky Mountains archaeology and fostering preservation of the unmatched archaeological resources those regions contain.

PCRG’s mission integrates two primary objectives: cultural resources research and public engagement in archaeology and historic preservation. All PCRG projects focus on specific research goals, derived primarily from research questions and data gaps identified in regional synthetic documents. Recent PCRG projects in Colorado have explored American Indian use of the high county, the earliest appearance of stone architectural features in the San Luis Valley, and the distribution and function of culturally modified trees. PCRG also conducts focused archaeological assessments designed to evaluate the research potential of particular sites or areas.

PCRG’s other primary objective, public engagement, is met both through direct participation and through post-project interpretation. All PCRG projects rely on students and adult volunteers to carry out the field investigation and subsequent laboratory analyses. Direct participation in the research enterprise helps volunteers understand the importance of heritage preservation and gives them an appreciation for the critical role federal, state, and local land managing agencies play in protecting and interpreting cultural resources. Participation also offers invaluable learning opportunities for both students and adults.

To learn more about PCRG membership and research visit us at www.paleocultural.org.

ORCA Partners

Major funding for the initial development of ORCA was provided by a History Colorado – State Historical Fund grant awarded to PCRG (No. 2015-M2-011). Additional funding was provided by the Colorado Council of Professional Archaeologists, the Colorado Archaeological Society, Metcalf Archaeological Consultants, Inc., Alpine Archaeological Consultants, Inc., the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Colorado, and anonymous donors. PCRG greatly appreciates the generous contributions made by these organizations and individuals.

Numerous individuals contributed their time and talents to ORCA development. PCRG is especially grateful to the many authors and reviewers whose dedication to the discipline made Reviews in Colorado Archaeology possible.

How to Contribute to ORCA

ORCA welcomes input both from the regional archaeological community and from avocationals. The most important—and simplest—way to contribute is to use the site and offer comments, suggestions, and critiques. In addition, both professionals and avocationals can:

To provide feedback, contribute documents, or submit an article, please contact:

Dr. Mark D. Mitchell
Research Director
Paleocultural Research Group
P.O. Box 745309
Arvada, Colorado 80006
(303) 439-4098


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