APEX Event: The Crimson Cowboys

The first APEX event for the semester, held on Jan 17th, featured distinguished faculty lecturer and English professor Dr. James Aton.

Dr. Aton’s newest book, “The Crimson Cowboys: The 1931 Clafin-Emerson Expedition,” is the first full-length report on the incredible journey and expedition of archaeology that took place not too far from Utah’s towns of Green River and Vernal.

Dr. Aton and his co-author Jerry D. Spangler did extensive research on the many men who were a part of the archaeological expedition, most of which came from Harvard University. They did field research going out to the actual sites that the Clafin-Emerson group expedited. Their research also involved reading the student records in order to get an idea of the people who were on this trip, as the journals they kept were only for scientific research.

“The Crimson Cowboys” is full of the history of the northern Utah Tavaputs Plateau, or the Fremont complex which is a term used by archaeologists to describe the North end of the Colorado river, the native people who lived there and the farmers with their ranches. According to Dr. Aton, this expedition was a hallmark in archaeological history. Despite this, the Cladin-Emerson expedition was not given a full report when the director of the project, Donald Scott, returned to Harvard.

The event ended with a Q-and-A session, where Dr. Aton talked about the importance of his book and keeping archaeological sites preserved. When asked what is the biggest threat to archaeological sites were, Dr. Aton said it is oil and gas development. Oil and gas companies, he explained, are slowly making their way towards the Tavaputs Plateau–and making way for looters to take away the historical artifacts.

Dr. Aton hopes that the impact of his book brings a new appreciation of archaeology, the past and the extraordinary archaeological achievements of this expedition.

Story by: Jessica Hanneman
Photo Courtesy of Jessica Hanneman