Ambitious new plans

Rhett Breedlove
Posted 6/14/24

TORRINGTON – Despite the fact Goshen County is what so many would consider a small rural place with “nothing to do,” this does not change the fact every square inch has a history …

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Ambitious new plans


TORRINGTON – Despite the fact Goshen County is what so many would consider a small rural place with “nothing to do,” this does not change the fact every square inch has a history dating back hundreds, even thousands of years.

When it comes to our own modern history, one does not have to look far to see its storied preservation. Walking around downtown in any community whether it be Torrington, Lingle, Fort Laramie, or Yoder, one could make an almost completely safe bet they are going to come across something with an intriguing, lengthy past.

This being said the incredible amount of land, rock, and soil in the area has been part of this planet’s long and eventful history just like anywhere else in the world.

With billions and billions of years of passing time, pressure, and change throughout the entire world, of course, one can safely assume a story is waiting to be told throughout this entire county.

How does one go about finding this story? 

Simple. One has to just simply dig for it.

Professor of archaeology and anthropology, Dr. Steven Howard, joined the faculty at Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) from Austin, Texas last fall.

Having bounced and worked around several different places and states throughout the nation, Dr. Howard perhaps may have found the perfect place for a fresh and ambitious college professor to continue authenticated study and research in his field.

“I grew up in western New York, went to school there first, and then I went on to school in Columbus Ohio,” Dr. Howard began. “Then eventually, I went to work down in the Texas Gault Site where I was the field director there. Studying the earliest Americans is something I worked in down there while running field schools and things like that. It was during this time where I got the experience they were looking for with this particular job, working with the public in archaeology.”

As the professor originally from New York would put it, the initial plan was to be a traveling archaeologist uncovering astounding stories, people, and artifacts throughout the entire world.

Admirably comparable to a real-life Indiana Jones perhaps.

As with most stories, Dr. Howard gave a brief bit of insight as to what exactly brought him into the world of education and teaching. After all the original plan was perhaps to travel and discover as much as he possibly could worldwide.

“I went to school just to be a regular archaeological bum, which of course is an archeologist who goes around different places within cultural resource management,” Dr. Howard joked. “When I got into my master’s program after the first year, they asked me if I would teach a class. I wasn’t keen at first because I was kind of shy and didn’t really like crowds. But they offered to pay my tuition and a stipend, and I was like, ‘Okay!’”

As fate would have it, Dr. Howard soon discovered sharing a vast knowledge and experience of anthropology/archaeology to the next generation turned out to be icing on an already rewarding and very interesting cake.

“When I got into the classroom, I found it was really fun,” Dr. Howard said. “I very much liked the interactions, and you learn a lot from the students as well. I tell my students a lot if you are really into a particular subject and you want to learn more about it, then teach. Because when you teach realize you have to come up with the correct answers. In order to do that you have to do the correct kind of research.”

“I’m kind of an inquisitive scientific-minded person,” Dr. Howard continued. “It’s just being in this line of work and having a job I love to do; whereas I have so many friends who have jobs, but their job is purely to make money. They always wish they had something else to do. I get to teach, dig, and all this other amazing stuff, so it’s been very enjoyable having a job I very much love doing.”

With plenty of open untouched land and being welcomed with open arms by SHAPP, it would be safe to say Dr. Howard has hopefully found a long-term home with EWC and the history-committed general public of Goshen County.

As Dr. Howard candidly put it, the long-term mission is to generate as much public interest and involvement as possible. As many would agree the more history unlocked within the grounds of Goshen County could mean a much brighter and intriguing future for everyone.

Interestingly enough the current situation and partnership between EWC and SHAPP is indeed incredibly positive, but at the same time advantageously rare. 

“We are in a situation which isn’t normal because we actually have an abundance of funding,” Dr. Howard stated. “That’s not something you find in archaeology every day, so it’s a very lucky thing for us to be in those positions. Archeology is expensive, and there’s not a lot of money out there for it. There are always challenges, and one of the things we are trying to do for the program is increase our student enrollment and public interest. Students can recognize right now it’s affordable here at EWC, and they can transfer on to other things. We are currently setting up an experience program, so they will not only get experience in archaeology and anthropology but also museum studies, museology, and biological anthropology. We will cover all that stuff, and we are having students right now this summer working in the labs and in the field. On top of that we will have students working in actual museums.”

“We will be setting up a museum downtown in Torrington as the city has graciously allowed us to use the old chamber of commerce building,” Dr. Howard continued. “We are working with the Homesteader Museum on that project, and we are planning to have an outdoor pit area for kids to experience when they come to the park across from the fire hall there. We will be having foundations and dinosaur bones from the geological aspect and will even have little take-home artifacts the kids can find and keep.”

It should be widely noted perhaps the biggest kickoff to Dr. Howard’s plans, as well as conceivably a most memorable event pertaining to the archaeological history of Goshen County is mere weeks away.

The public is more than welcome and encouraged to come to the EWC Archaeology Symposium at Sunrise from June 27-29, with round-trip shuttles available on both Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. with the final shuttle leaving at 4 p.m.

Governor Mark Gordon is also scheduled to both appear and speak at the event, with the archaeology and anthropology professors making their presence known as well.

“We have six major researchers coming in who are scientists in the field and are working to answer questions in regard to the first Americans,” Dr. Howard said. “We have two of them coming from Brazil, one from Paraguay, one from Texas, and one from Colorado who used to teach in England. We do have additional presentations as George Ziemens has also invited a couple people from around to give an overview on the importance of keeping your collections in order, and the contributions collectors can make to archeology. So, we are definitely covering all our bases, and this is for research purposes.”

With so much planned this summer from an archaeological standpoint and with a firm alliance already established between EWC and SHAPP, it would be wise for the public to keep both their eyes and ears perked with engagement.

Perhaps something historic is about to be found.