Wyoming’s Wind River Range, prehistoric mountain villages, archeology: As an undergraduate, Matt Stirn ’11 developed a model to predict the whereabouts of prehistoric lodge sites in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. He is now part of a team of archaeologists that recently discovered 13 sky-high prehistoric villages—including one that may be the oldest mountain settlement in North America.
The age of the oldest villages is unknown, but it\’s clear that some were built at least 2,700 years ago, and High Rise may be 4,000 years old, Adams says. That would make it the oldest alpine village in North America. There\’s evidence that people lived at High Rise on and off for at least 2,000 years running. The Sheepeater Shoshone, the Native American people who built the Winds villages, used them until they were confined to reservations.
Researchers puzzle over why prehistoric people headed for the hills in the first place. Perhaps changes in climate made food scarcer in the lowlands, or perhaps immigrants drove people off their traditional territory. Nor do scientists know whether the Wind River people came up with the idea of high-mountain settlements on their own or heard about it from others. But Wind River has helped put to rest the old stereotype that prehistoric peoples stuck to the lowlands.
The range “was the place to be in the summer. … It is just exhilarating to be there, and the living was easier than in the basin,” Adams says. “I think they were up there having fun.”
Davidson College, President Carol Quillen: Reimagining the Liberal Arts Campus …
Where do you begin?
I start with this notion that how we are physically organized shapes what we’re able to do.
“Neighborhood” to me signifies the importance of place, the importance of face-to-face collaboration and contact, the multi-functionality of space. In your neighborhood, that\’s where you shop, where you play, where you work, where you socialize, where you live.
“Neighborhood” is a metaphor for the kind of intellectual environment we are trying to create. Community really matters at Davidson, and a neighborhood is the material backdrop for building community.
How does that apply specifically to a liberal arts education?
A liberal arts education develops deep talents and capacities within students so that they are well-equipped for whatever challenges and opportunities they take up after they leave. It\’s less about preparing for a specific job than it is about preparing to become the kind of leader, thinker, doer who can adapt and who has a range of skills and talents.
We want our students to express themselves clearly both in writing and speaking. We want them to learn how to collaborate and work in teams. We want them to do original work while they\’re here because that’s how they learn how to reframe questions and solve real problems. We want them to engage with the community.
So what kind of academic spaces would allow us to build the kind of curriculum that develops those kinds of qualities? Out of that comes the “academic neighborhood” concept.