When it’s time to write a blog post, do you search for fresh ideas — but nothing comes to mind? Here’s how to repurpose content.
If you come up empty-handed, the solution might be at your fingertips. Instead of spending time writing entirely new copy, you can breathe fresh life into EXISTING content — your articles, blog posts, webinar transcripts, book chapters, and worksheets. It’s easy to repurpose your existing content.
Repurposing and “recycling” older articles is perfectly fine — as long as the topics are evergreen (still relevant).
It surprises me when my clients express reluctance to repurpose content they wrote years ago, for example, older case studies or blog articles. If the topic is evergreen, the content may need just a bit of editing — a tweak here, a twist there — to be updated.
Perhaps it’s my South Dakota roots, but whenever I write about the topic of how to repurpose content, the word FODDER leaps to mind.
One definition of fodder is “coarse food for livestock.” Ok, that definition does not apply! But this one does: “raw material.”
Here’s why I like the word FODDER …
Early in my corporate marketing career, I figured out how to repurpose content. I had to — it was a matter of survival!
On any given day, I faced deadlines related to marketing brochures, direct mail, public relations, white papers, case studies, tradeshows, sales presentations, websites, online newsletters, and advertising.
Since I was juggling so many projects at once, I mastered the art of leveraging and repurposing content to save time and meet deadlines.
Long ago, I began looking at the copy I wrote as much more than one-off content. Instead, I viewed everything I wrote as potential fodder for a future project. Today this skill comes naturally for me.
Are you a solopreneur (professional speaker, marketing consultant, business coach, life coach)? Or do you own a different type of business? Or do you wear the marketing hat for a larger company? If so, there’s a good chance you write a lot of unique content. This means there’s a good chance you have plenty of FODDER at your fingertips!
Follow 2 easy steps to “recycle” and repurpose content.
Step 1: Use this checklist to identify ALL the places your written content exists.
- Marketing tools: Website, speaker one-sheets, brochures, sales sheets, and compiled testimonials
- PowerPoint or Keynote presentations and transcripts for keynotes, videos, webinars, and podcasts
- Handouts, worksheets, tip sheets, and checklists
- Social media posts and lists of discussion topics
- Published articles, case studies, and white papers
- Blog articles
- Email newsletters
- Opt-in box giveaway item (aka lead magnet, opt-in bribe, or freemium)
- Your books
- Your information products
- Other: __________________________________
Step 2: Take a fresh look at how you can repurpose your existing content — the fodder at your fingertips!
Let’s brainstorm a bit to spur some ideas. Take a minute to think broadly about the content you have written, per the above list. How can you “recycle” and repurpose your existing content?
Here’s an example: You could repurpose a webinar transcript into:
- Blog article or article series
- Guest blog article
- Email newsletter article
- Article to be published in a trade magazine (printed or online)
- Chapter for your next book
- Information product
- Opt-in box giveaway item, perhaps distilled into a worksheet or tip sheet
- Raid tidbits and share daily tips on Facebook and other social media sites
Instead of spending time writing entirely new articles, you can repurpose content by breathing fresh life into your existing, evergreen copy.
I’ve been transforming “fodder” — already written content — into polished, vibrant, relevant copy for decades. I’m happy to help YOU transform your transcripts, blog posts, email newsletter articles, presentations, video scripts, handouts, worksheets, and other existing copy into NEW and UP-TO-DATE content.
Do you need fresh ideas and a bit of guidance?
If you need writing or editing support to repurpose your existing content, call me at 719-685-1108 or pop an email to Patrice@PatriceRB.com. Remember, I offer a free, 30-minute consultation.
Whether you love to write or just endure it, it’s a good time to embrace a content marketing strategy.
Do you love to write, and the words flow like water in a stream? My guess is probably not! If you’re like most people, when it’s time to write, you need to shut your office door, knuckle down, and just get it done. Yet no matter your approach to writing, you’re in luck. Why? Because producing content is the absolute key to “content marketing,” an effective marketing strategy that continues to gain traction.
Content marketing is truly enjoying its day in the sun! In fact, the Content Marketing Institute says: “It’s the present – and future – of marketing.” In other words, it’s the better way, and it’s here to stay.
What is content marketing?
Here’s a definition from the Content Marketing Institute:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues.”
Put more simply: When you regularly create and distribute useful content, you can attract prospects, nurture a relationship, and drive sales.
Even if you only do a tad bit of marketing in your business, you know that writing content is part and parcel to implementing all types of marketing, public relations, and advertising strategies.
Many of my clients – solopreneurs and mid-size businesses – are actively executing aggressive content marketing strategies. Many ask me to write content for them on a regular basis. Primarily, this includes:
- Blog articles
- Email newsletter articles
- Product/service web pages
- Case study web pages
- Articles for trade publications
- Content for infographics
- Copy for marketing brochures and mailers
Working with different clients in different industries has given me insight into the many ways to pursue content marketing. Some strategies are fairly simple; some are quite robust. The end goal is the same: attract prospects, nurture a relationship, and drive sales.
Get started on (or improve) your content marketing strategy: Here is my 3-step plan
Whether your business is large or small, I believe there are 3 basic steps for your content marketing plan. In a nutshell, these are: (1) Write regular blog posts to attract prospects to your website. (2) Entice them with a compelling giveaway, so you can get their email address and build your list. (3) Send regular email newsletters to your list to stay top-of-mind, nurture the relationship and, over time, convert prospects to paying clients.
Keep reading … here are details for this basic, 3-step plan. Follow these tips to begin (or improve) your content marketing strategy.
1. BLOG ARTICLES – Post regular blog articles with information that is useful, relevant, and informative for your target market. Although your blog articles clearly show your expertise, they are not sales pitches. The reason to post new content regularly is two-fold: You are inviting and attracting prospects, customers, and social media connections to visit your website. Plus, adding new content invites Google’s search-engine robots to revisit your site, which can help to improve your search-engine rankings.
- Include SEO keywords in every blog post, which helps to attract prospects to your blog and website. Identifying organic SEO keywords is simple. Here’s a quick case study: I just began teaming with an accomplished executive coach and his assistant. We quickly identified these organic SEO keywords: his full name (not just his first name) and his city as well as phrases such as executive coach, business coach, executive coaching, Vistage Chair, and so on.
- In terms of word count, Google likes 300+ words.
- Use a plugin (e.g., Yoast), which can guide you to improve your search-engine optimization, with the addition of a keyword focus, meta description, and more.
- Use your social media sites to announce the new article to your fans, friends, and followers. This invites folks to your website/blog to read the article.
- I like to include brief blog articles with photos on topics of personal interest. Examples include highlights of hiking adventures, archaeological field trips, and roadtrips throughout the Southwest. This has been a fun and rewarding way to truly connect with many like-minded people around the world.
2. OPT-IN BOX – Ensure your blog has an opt-in box in the margin, so you can capture visitors’ email addresses. The opt-in box must have a compelling, free giveaway item (aka lead magnet, opt-in bribe, or freemium). Here’s the reason to create a hardworking opt-in box: This simple tool helps to build your list. This enables you to stay in contact with prospects and grow your relationship.
- You can have one main opt-in box in the margin of your blog. Better yet, each blog article can have a brief corresponding worksheet that is downloadable via that particular blog article’s opt-in box.
- Place an opt-in box on all pages of your website, not just on the blog and Home page. In fact, consider having opt-in boxes with different giveaway items on various web pages to entice prospects who are interested in your various products and services.
- Ideally, when someone opts-in, they should receive several autoresponder emails that offer additional, valuable information. This helps to create a trusting relationship. Keep the focus on giving value rather than sell-sell-sell.
- In the opt-in box, consider asking for ONLY the email address – not first name, last name, city, company, and other information. Marketing data shows that conversion rates improve when less information is required.
- Ask your assistant or website developer to ensure the email address is automatically entered into your email newsletter database (e.g., MailChimp or Constant Contact).
- If you’re implementing a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising strategy, the ad’s link should take prospects to a landing page with an opt-in box and compelling giveaway item. (Place the same opt-in box at both the top and bottom of the landing page.)
- Here are 10 example giveaway items:
– Infographic (these appeal to prospects due to instant gratification)
– Recorded interview
– Set of templates
– White paper
3. EMAIL NEWSLETTER – Send a weekly or monthly email newsletter. The primary reason is to stay top-of-mind with your prospects and customers. Ideally, many prospects will eventually convert to paying clients. Plus, many clients will return to purchase your products and services.
- Primarily, the content should add value, not sell.
- You can certainly promote new products, services, special offers, and so forth. And, of course, you can include links to your website.
- Consider creating an editorial calendar. This step can help you develop more sophisticated email campaigns to support your product funnel and drive the sales process.
All the above steps assume that the website content is up-to-date, particularly when it comes to brand messaging, products, services, and case studies. In fact, I encourage you to keep your website content as current as possible. (If you need help, give me a holler.) Your up-to-date website is the hub of all marketing activities.
Follow this basic 3-step content marketing strategy to attract prospects, nurture the relationship, and drive sales.
What’s the best way to improve your writing? Walk away!
Here’s my favorite business writing tip: Write your first draft, taking time to re-read the copy and give it a good polish.
Next, walk away for an hour – or a day!
What do you get?
Perspective and objectivity.
Walking away helps to give you distance – literally and figuratively! When you come back, you’ll take a fresh look at the content you wrote. You’ll be surprised how much perspective and objectivity you will gain.
What do you do next? Edit to ensure content is crisp, clear, and compelling.
Now, go back to your writing. Pretend someone else wrote the content. Put on your editor’s hat. It’s time to edit ruthlessly!
Follow this 10-point checklist to edit your content:
- Make sure there’s a clear benefit message. (Readers should quickly understand why they want to invest their limited time to read your content. What will they learn? Don’t make them guess!)
- Write a more enticing headline.
- Ensure every sentence is as clear as possible.
- Check to ensure the overall structure makes sense. (For example, if you’re writing a case study, have you presented before/after events in chronological order?)
- Add subheads to strengthen structure.
- Trim the word count.
- Add SEO keywords.
- Proof to fix spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
- Fact-check as necessary.
- Add a call-to-action at the end.
More on this business writing tip . . .
- Why do I consider this to be the best business writing tip EVER? Because “walking away” can help you to objectively look at and edit your article, blog post, worksheet, brochure, and book. Do this every time, and you WILL improve your writing – and your message.
- When editing, I like to print out the page(s). Surprisingly, reading a piece of paper – versus staring at the screen – adds even more perspective and objectivity.
- Also, when editing, I like to use a red pen. If you find red ink daunting (perhaps you’re haunted by harsh teachers wielding red pens), then use green, purple, blue, or black. The color doesn’t matter. What matters is taking time to thoroughly – and ruthlessly – edit your content.
In a nutshell, here’s why this is my favorite business writing tip …
When you walk away – then come back later to ruthlessly edit your writing – your content will be crisp, clear, and compelling.
Prehistoric people in the Southwest carefully watched – and marked – the sun and seasons.
Here’s a great example: On summer solstice at Fajada Butte (in Chaco Culture National Historical Park), a vertical shaft of light – now known as the sun dagger – passes through the center of a spiral petroglyph.
This was no accident. For prehistoric people, tracking the movement of the sun was serious business. For example, the vernal equinox might indicate that it’s time to plant seeds.
Like our ancestors, I tend to pay attention to the movement of the sun and changing of the seasons.
While searching for information on the upcoming vernal equinox, I ran across this sentence on the website TimeAndDate.com:
“The Earth is closest to the Sun – at its perihelion – about 2 weeks after the December solstice and farthest from the Sun – at its aphelion – about 2 weeks after the June solstice.”
As a copywriter, I love the English language, and I love learning new words.
The above sentence kicked up my curiosity a notch, so I took a few minutes to expand my vocabulary.
Here’s a quick “sun and seasons” vocabulary test. See how well you do!
Vernal equinox and autumnal equinox – Also known as spring equinox and fall equinox, this marks the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator (the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator). According to TimeAndDate.com, on the equinox, night and day are nearly the same length (12 hours) – but not exactly the same length. The word “equinox” is derived from Latin, meaning “equal night.” The equinox happens every year on March 19, 20, or 21 and on September 22, 23, or 24.
Winter solstice and summer solstice – In the Northern Hemisphere, winter solstice is the shortest day of the year (in terms of sunlight). Conversely, summer solstice is the longest day of the year. Winter solstice occurs on December 20, 21, 22, or 23. Summer solstice occurs on June 20, 21, or 22. According to TimeAndDate.com, the dates vary because our 365-day calendar year is slightly different than the tropical year – the length of time the sun takes to return to the same position in the seasons cycle (as seen from Earth).
Zenith and nadir – Pretend you’re standing on the equator at high noon. Directly above you, the sun reaches its zenith – its highest point. Beneath your feet is the nadir, which is diametrically opposite of zenith.
Perihelion and aphelion – According to TimeAndDate.com, when the Earth is closest to the Sun, this is called the perihelion point. This occurs about 2 weeks after winter solstice. Conversely, when the Earth is farthest away from the Sun, this is called the aphelion point. This occurs about 2 weeks after summer solstice. This year’s aphelion is July 3, and the Sun will be 94,505,901 miles away.
Perigee and apogee – TimeAndDate.com explains that, like the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, the Moon’s path around the Earth is also elliptical. The point in the Moon’s orbit that is closest to the Earth is called the perigee and the point farthest from the Earth is known as the apogee. The terms are also sometimes used interchangeably with the Earth’s perihelion and aphelion.
Productivity tips for small business owners: These 7 calendaring tips add productivity (and sanity) to your week
Is every week crazy-busy?
How can you add productivity – and sanity – to your week?
There’s an old saying that goes (roughly): “Sometimes you get the bear; sometimes the bear gets you.” When you’re crazy-busy, it can feel like you’re being chased by a bear – and it’s gonna get you! Often, feeling crazy-busy goes hand-in-hand with feeling stressed.
After a 25-year corporate marketing career and 10+ years owning a business, I’ve discovered that being organized goes a long way toward reducing stress and being productive. Today, as a marketing/branding consultant and copywriter for websites, blog posts, speaker one-sheets and more, I have a lot of plates spinning.
Taking time for “calendaring” helps to ensure my week is sane, organized, and productive. Calendaring helps to ensure you never miss a meeting and always complete projects on time. That’s why calendaring is one of my favorite productivity tips for small business owners.
If you spend time wading through emails and stacks of paper searching for details, are late for meetings, and stress over deadlines, then I encourage you to give these calendaring tips a try. Wouldn’t it be great to get on top of details and deadlines? Wouldn’t it be great to get the bear?
Let’s follow the “Who/What/When/Where” approach to discuss this productivity topic.
WHO: Every busy person including solopreneurs and small business owners who could add a bit of productivity (and sanity) to their lives. In fact, calendaring is one of my favorite productivity tips for small business owners, because it make a big difference in your quality of life.
WHAT: Take time for calendering every week. To me, it means carving out time to sit down, take a breath, and create a complete to-do list for the upcoming week. This starts with organizing all events in your calendar (whether it’s paper or electronic). Mark down all appointments, note all project deadlines, list priority action items, and so forth.
WHEN: I reserve time every Monday morning to organize my week. It can take a couple of hours! Do your Mondays start with “ready, set, go”? If so, consider taking time for calendaring on Friday afternoon for the upcoming week. If necessary, do this over the weekend.
WHERE: This activity requires focus – and having information and office tools at hand. I encourage you to do your calendaring at your desk in your office. That way, you have all tools handy: your phone, computer, email, electronic or paper calendar, pens, highlighters, etc.
HOW: When it comes to calendaring, here are my favorite productivity tips for small business owners:
- Create ONE list for the whole week; identify daily action items and milestones – Take time to create a complete to-do list for the upcoming week (either on paper or electronically). This includes identifying tasks and projects you MUST complete as well as those you HOPE to complete. Calendaring takes this a step beyond jotting down a simple to-do list. Whether your calendar is electronic or paper, take time to identify action items to tackle on specific days. Believe me, when you create a thorough, day-by-day action list that’s integrated with your calendar, all sorts of details will pop into your brain … important details that may otherwise get overlooked. Plus, there’s a good chance you’ll step up your productivity.
- Schedule “meetings” with yourself – Do you have a long-term project on your plate? Often, business development activities and long-term goals that are important do not have concrete or looming deadlines. Set aside time to get it done! Put this appointment in your calendar, and don’t skip it. A good example is dedicating a portion of every Monday to be “Marketing Monday” to promote and grow your business.
- At the end of every day, take time to wrangle loose ends – Write down all appointments, tasks, notes, reminders, and deadlines for the next day. Capture all details. Otherwise, these “gremlins” may wake you up at 2:00 in the morning.
- Include personal tasks on your master list – Let’s say your anniversary is next week, and you need to call in reservations at your favorite restaurant. Better make a note. Or perhaps you’re hosting a friend’s birthday party at your house. Don’t forget to order the cake. When calendaring, include important action items related to personal projects.
- This is a good opportunity to clear off your desk – While calendaring, take time to file papers, address sticky notes, and check unread emails for surprise action items.
- Send a reminder/confirmation email to meeting participants – For meetings that have been set up for the week (either in-person meetings or conference calls), send a reminder email to the participants. This helps to ensure the meeting happens as planned, and the project moves forward.
- Set alarms in your smartphone – You can set up alarms to alert you to certain high-priority activities such as meetings and doctor’s appointments. (Don’t go overboard.)
WHY: Carving out time to get organized actually buys you more time! Taking time for calendaring helps to clear your mind, reduce stress, and tackle priority projects. Without question, it makes you more productive. And you’ll be on top of details and deadlines!
Imagine no more searching for lost files, being late for important meetings, or missing project deadlines. Investing just a bit of calendaring time every week can truly add productivity – and sanity – to your work week.
This is why calendaring has become one of my favorite productivity tips for small business owners.
When Mike and I head out for a roadtrip, we usually point the car southwest. This time, we drove due west to an extremely remote section of Utah called Nine Mile Canyon. In reality, this canyon is 46 miles long. It has been dubbed “the world’s longest art museum,” thanks to many panels of historic and prehistoric rock art (petroglyphs and pictographs). Click to see a map.
Here is the gem of Nine Mile Canyon: A petroglyph panel known as “The Great Hunt”
According to signage at the site: “Scholars believe this extraordinary panel may represent an actual hunting event. … Historians believe this panel depicts a scene in late November or early December when herds of bighorn sheep meet for the fall mating season. This is the only time of the year that rams, ewes, and lambs are all together in the same place. The large trapezoidal horned figure at the top of the [petroglyph] panel is an example of a classic Fremont [culture] rock art style … circa AD 950-1200.”
Utah’s squirrely weather didn’t put a damper on our fun…
Although the weather in Colorado can be unpredictable, it seems like Utah takes the cake.
- At the entrance of Nine Mile Canyon, we encounter several inches of hail on the road. (It looks like snow in the picture, but it is hail.)
- Then the sun comes out – hallelujah! We can take time to explore, climb on the cliffs, and take tons of pix.
- Soon dark clouds roll in.
- Then the sky pelts us with rain, sleet, and snow. In just a matter of minutes, we’re walking in a winter wonderland.
- Mother Nature has one more BIG thing to throw our way: A huge boulder rolls into the middle of the road. (It was not there when we entered the canyon!)
Here’s a sampling of what you can discover in Nine Mile Canyon
Note the variety of rock art styles and images including a horse and rider (wearing a headdress), which dates to historic times. Keep in mind that the Spanish brought horses to America, so this type of image helps to date certain petroglyph panels. Other images are undoubtably prehistoric.
All photos by Patrice Rhoades-Baum, except the shot of me exploring the cliff (on the hunt for more rock art), taken by Michael Baum.
They procrastinate, get stressed out, get writer’s block, and suffer through the first draft. Their editing process is more “critical” than “critique.” The words do not flow, and they are NOT having a good time.
For me, thanks to 3 decades of marketing and copywriting experience, writing marketing content comes fairly easily. It’s still a hefty project, mind you. But (thankfully) there’s not a lot of pain and suffering involved.
Right now, I’m immersed in writing several sales landing pages. The copy is flowing (thankfully). I just realized the reason why it’s flowing: Over the years, I’ve internalized these 3 secrets to writing marketing content.
Here are my 3 secrets to writing marketing content:
Secret #1. Follow the “itch-and-scratch” approach.
This is an extremely useful tool to have in your writing toolkit. Here’s how it works:
THE ITCH: Write the first few sentences of copy to directly address your prospects’ needs, challenges, or struggles.
THE SCRATCH: Write copy that directly speaks to the results – the relief they get – with the products or services you deliver.
Here’s an example:
THE ITCH: Are you embarrassed by your outdated website and mismatched marketing tools?
THE SCRATCH: Team with our skilled designers to create polished, professional marketing collateral, including a strategic website. You’ll enjoy this exciting, stress-free process. And you’ll love the results!
Secret #2. Use the word YOU.
Writing sentences that start with the word “YOU” helps to clearly present benefit messages. This is a must when writing ALL types of marketing content including website copy. (Note that you are “speaking” to an individual person, not a group of people magically reading your content in unison.)
Here’s an example:
In this interactive workshop, your sales reps will learn a proven process to hit their sales goals, month after month.
“YOU” is a hardworking little word. It practically guarantees that your marketing content clearly presents “what you get” – the benefits and results your prospects will receive when they team with you.
Secret #3. Tap into the reader’s emotions.
As I thought about one of the sales landing pages I was about to write, I realized that prospects who need this product are feeling confused, stuck, and overwhelmed. As I wrote the copy, I addressed these feelings from beginning to end. Essentially, I kept my finger on the pulse.
When writing marketing content, take a minute to think deeply about your potential buyers. How are they feeling? What are the emotions they struggle with – the emotions that might drive them to purchase the particular service or product you are selling?
Here’s a helpful list of emotions, as a start:
Frustrated, overwhelmed, confused, unclear/foggy, feeling stuck, feeling pressured to make the right choice, scared, feelings of inadequacy, flustered, floundering, fear of wasting time, fear of wasting money, fear of failure, fear of making the wrong choice
Follow these 3 secrets to writing marketing content for your next project. Hopefully, there will be no pain and suffering – and a lot more flow!
A colleague asked for feedback on a web page she wrote for a business in the healthcare industry. It was well written, and her main point was clear. However, the content focused on the business, not the reader. In 6 paragraphs, the words we and our appeared 18 times. The words you and your were few and far between.
Why was this an issue? Because the content stressed “Here’s what we do.” The benefit messages – “Here’s what you get” – simply were not clear.
The reader would need to puzzle out: “This business says it offers X. Now I must determine if that will provide the benefits or results I’m looking for.” This may not seem too difficult, but guess what? Most likely, the reader will not take time to connect the dots.
In website content and other marketing copy, you must clearly spell out the benefits and results the reader (your prospect) will receive from your products or services.
I encouraged my colleague to shift her content from “WE-focused” to “YOU-focused.” For example:
- WE-focused: As a Level II trauma center, we provide specialized care, and we can handle any emergency.
- Rewritten to be YOU-focused: In an emergency, you can rely on the specialized care of our Level II trauma center. (Notice that the content speaks directly to the reader.)
Here’s another example, commonly found on the “About Us” page on a business website:
- WE-focused: We have provided reliable, award-winning products and services since 1999. Plus, we offer 24×7 customer service.
- Rewritten to be YOU-focused: Since 1999, customers like you have turned to us for reliable, award-winning products and services. Plus, if you need assistance, our 24×7 customer service team is always here for you. (Again, the content speaks directly to the individual reader.)
TIP: Using the word “YOU” helps to clearly present benefit messages – a must when writing website content and other marketing copy.
When you put the focus on your reader, he or she will instantly grasp your benefit messages without needing to puzzle out “How does this relate to me? Can this business meet my needs? Should I contact this business, or should I look elsewhere?”
QUICK QUIZ: Is your writing WE-focused or YOU-focused? Take this simple test to find out!
- Print a page from your website.
- Grab a red pen. Circle the words we and our in red. Now count them, and write down the number.
- Grab a blue pen. Circle the words you and your in blue. Now count them, and write down the number.
How did you do?
Ideally, you’ll have at least twice the number of the words you and your versus we and our. If not, rework sentences to incorporate the word “YOU.”
Remember, using the word “YOU” puts the focus on your reader (your prospect) – not on your business.
“YOU” is a hardworking little word. It practically guarantees that your website content and other marketing copy will clearly present “what you get” – the benefits and results your prospects will receive when they team with you.
Archaeological field trip at Fort Carson’s Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site
Our local chapter of the Colorado Archaeological Society got a rare treat: A guided tour of prehistoric sites in the normally inaccessible Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado. We were encouraged to poke around to discover rock art (petroglyphs and pictographs), dwellings, food-storage granaries, and scattered stone and ceramic artifacts. Many are approximately 1,000 years old.
Unfortunately, no actual live rattlers were sighted. I say “unfortunately” because I insist that a rattlesnake sighting proves you’re having an adventure. ;>
Here’s a primer on prehistoric southeastern Colorado:
- Throughout prehistoric times, multiple cultures (groups of people) competed for resources (water, plants, and animals) in southeastern Colorado.
- Approximately 1,000 years ago, during what is now called the Diversification Period, agriculture was just getting a foothold in southeastern Colorado. Some cultures were sedentary farmers who stayed year-round. They constructed permanent dwellings in hut-like structures and rock shelters (“caves”) in the rugged outcroppings and ridges. An example is the Apishapa Culture, named after the Apishapa River in southeastern Colorado.
- Other cultures – hunter-gatherers and cross-country traders – moved through the area and often raided the farming communities. They did not construct permanent dwellings, and they made camp in the wide-open valleys. An example is the Barnes Culture, named after an archaeologist who surveyed and excavated these sites.
- Most of the rock art (petroglyphs and pictographs), dwellings, and artifacts we found dated to the Diversification Period, which was about 500 to 900 years ago (approximately 1100 to 1500 AD).
Do you know…
- What is the difference between a petroglyph and a pictograph? Petroglyphs are pecked into the stone (as the rattlesnake rock art image above). Pictographs are painted on stone with long-lasting pigments.
- What do you do when you find a historic or prehistoric artifact? You can carefully pick it up, look at it, and take a picture – then you must put it back down. You never, ever keep it. This is ethical and responsible. And it’s the law.
- Why did I need to receive permission from Fort Carson to publish the following images? Because we must be careful not to divulge the location of ancient sites and artifacts. In fact, I was asked not to share the image of a certain pictograph, because it is considered sacred to several American Indian tribes.
All photos by Patrice Rhoades-Baum except the image of Patrice (on the lookout for more rock art!), taken by Michael Baum.
Mike and I celebrated his birthday by spending a few days in Rocky Mountain National Park – a gem in the National Park System. We should not have been surprised by the crowds (but we were) – after all, it was the middle of July on the 100th anniversary of the National Park System!
After negotiating parking and shuttle logistics to access trailheads, we marched up to the Alpine Life Zone at an elevation of about 11,500 feet. Here, at timberline, wildflowers bob in the cool breeze, streams of icy water glitter in the bright sun, and clouds scuttle across the deep-blue sky, casting shadows on rugged mountain peaks.
No crowds up here – just a few other adventurers from around the world, treasuring every facet of this sparkling gem.
Here are a few of my favorite photos. Enjoy!
(All photos by Patrice Rhoades-Baum, unless otherwise noted.)