Conversation with .. Frank Rupp, Kremmlng BLM archaeologist
August 19, 2008
If you’ve enjoyed the fictional adventures of Indiana Jones on the big screen, then it’s time to meet a real archaeologist.
Frank Rupp has been helping to discover and preserve Grand County’s ancient and historic past for the last two decades. He is the staff archaeologist at the Kremmling Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Rupp has worked as a BLM archaeologist for 24 years. He served at that federal agency’s offices in Montrose and Glenwood Springs before moving to Kremmling 20 years ago.
How did you become an archaeologist?
“When I was a kid living in Grand Junction, my Dad and I would go out looking for Indian arrowheads and fossils, but I didn’t have any thought about going into archaeology. When I went to college, I earned two degrees in psychology.
“I actually got my start in archaeology by chance. I was living in Montrose when a friend of mine, who was a commercial archaeologist doing contract work for the BLM, asked me if I want to go on a dig. I went and I just fell in love with archaeology. It just grabbed me.
“Most of my archaeology education since has been on-the-job training with BLM, although I’ve also taken some anthropology courses over the years. When I hit age 40, I went full-time with the BLM as an archaeologist.”
With the BLM, what kind of archaeological projects have you worked on?
“I first got involved in the Anasazi digs around Cortez. I’ve also worked on various Ute and other Native American sites in Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona as well as here in the Middle Park area of Colorado. Each site has its own unique features. Also with the BLM, I’ve worked on historic projects involving old mines and logging camps.”
“What has kept you here in Kremmling for 20 years?
“When I started my permanent job with BLM, I wanted to live a smaller community that was not urban. Kremmling has an easy charm that I really liked.
“And it was the archaeology of this area. Middle Park has the highest concentration of Paleo-Indian sites in western North America. I had my first introduction to it when I first volunteered for a dig in 1987 that worked on a 6,200-year-old pithouse that was discovered between Radium and El Rancho. Paleo-Indian archaeology may not be as sexy as Anasazi and some other cultures, but it’s an interest of mine.”
As a staff archaeologist for the BLM, what kind of projects do you work on?
“The biggest is a Paleo-Indian project with the University of Wyoming that is in its 18th year of collaboration. In government work, we have little time for the research that universities can do and this office has become known as encouraging their research. Over the years, we assisted half a dozen universities in their work here. It’s a fun, vicarious part of my job.
“Although I’m an archaeologist, I also work on the paleontology of this area such as Kremmling Cretaceous Ammonite Locality, which preserves 72 million-year-old marine fossils. We have fewer paleontologists come through here than archaeologists.
“And I act as the middle man between these specialists and the public. People are inherently curious about these subjects and always ask a lot of questions. Answering their questions and taking them on treks to the sites is an important part of my job because they are the taxpayers who support this work that is researching and preserving our past.”
What do you hope to have achieved by your work as a BLM archaeologist?
“I’m looking to retire in a couple of years, but I hope that I’ll have established a base for research that others can build on. I also hope that people will have a better understanding of the archaeology of this area and what BLM does.
“Another thing I hope is that I’ve encouraged students from the local schools to do science. I’ve taken many of them on these treks to the sites, and it’s personally gratifying for me when one of them says afterwards that ‘I want to be an archaeologist,’ or ‘I want to be a paleontologist.’ They might not pursue that, but hopefully I’ve helped open the doors to the possibilities in their own lives.”