GOLDEN, CO — Nestled in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains along Apex/Lena Gulch in Golden lies Magic Mountain, one of the most signiﬁcant archaeological sites along Colorado’s Front Range. During two separate digging sessions in the summer of 2018, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Paleocultural Research Group and the public uncovered some of the vast history of the area.
Magic Mountain was once a semi-permanent gathering place and seasonal camp for hunter and gatherer communities. Under the ground lies evidence of habitation by Paleo-Indians showing use of ceramics, stone structures and hearths. The oldest artifacts thus far found at the site are 7000 years old (5000 BCE) and it was used up until at least 1000 CE.
During the 2018 dig season, 71 volunteers helped lead public tours and supported the excavation. 14 teen interns through Teen Science Scholars and Native American Teen Programming participated in the dig. There was a total of 1,923 visitors through public tours (there were 945 in 2017). 85 children and teens were served through programs from Sun Valley, Boys & Girls Club and Teens Inc.
The focus the 2018 season was the Early Ceramic Period (200–1000 CE). There was a myriad of artifacts found including: projectile points, flakes from tool making activities as well as the addition of larger cooking ovens. The ovens were left in position and reburied on site. The artifacts are being processed and will eventually be added to the collections at the DMNS.
The site got its name, Magic Mountain, in the 1950s when investors built a family entertainment theme park for the residents of the Denver area. It was a Disney-like amusement park only open for two years during the summers of 1959 and 1960. Parts of the park morphed into Heritage Square Amusement Park in 1971 and eventually closed permanently on Saturday June 30th, 2018.
The Archaeological Periods represented at Magic Mountain Site:
Early Archaic Period (6650 BCE-3000 BCE)
Middle Archaic Period (3000 BCE-1500 BCE)
Late Archaic Period (1500 BCE-200 CE)
Early Ceramic Period (200-1000 CE)
Dr Michele Koons, Curator of Archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, works at Magic Mountain