Cordell/Powers Prize Competition



Linda's contributions to Southwestern archaeology are vast, she authored the authoritative book on the subject entitled Prehistory of the Southwest. Most known for her leadership and mentorship, Linda's legacy continues through her students.


Bob's long career in archaeology was primarily with the National Park Service, one of his most notable contributions was a major survey of Bandelier National Monument. Bob was committed to mentoring young archaeologists and encouraging collegiality in field work.


About the Competition

The Cordell and Powers Prize is a competition that honors Linda S. Cordell and Robert P. Powers: teachers, mentors, advisors, and friends to countless Southwestern archaeologists. The top prize will be awarded for the two best extemporaneous talks presented at the 2021 Pecos Conference by archaeologists 35 years of age or younger. In recognition that some contestants who intended to submit a paper during the 2020 Pecos Conference (cancelled due to COVID-19), for 2021 the age of entry is temporarily 36 years of age or younger. Both top winners will be awarded $700 along with the Cordell and the Powers prize objects, respectively. Additional awards will include second place ($550), third place ($400), 2 honorable mentions ($175), and 4 participation prizes ($75). Previous winners of the Cordell or the Powers Prize are ineligible to re-enter the competition.

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2021 Announcement 

The Cordell-Powers Prize Competition honors Linda S. Cordell and Robert P. Powers: teachers, mentors, advisors, and friends to countless Southwestern archaeologists. The competition is open to archaeologists 35 years of age and younger and has been an important addition to the Pecos Conference since 2014.


This year, ten Southwest archaeologists shared their research for the competition at the Pecos Conference in Mancos, Colorado. Topics ranged from historic Navajo features to Virgin Branch chronology to macaw rearing. The judges had their work cut out for them as there were many excellent papers—the final awards were as follows:


Chris Schwartz (ASU/NAU) – Powers Prize and $700

Kelsey Hanson (Univ of Arizona) – Cordell Prize and $700

Ali Livesay (Los Alamos Natl Lab) – Second prize ($550)

Liv Winnicki (Binghamton Univ) – Third prize ($400)

Daniel Perez (Univ of Nevada, Las Vegas) – honorable mention ($175)

Sean Field (Notre Dame) – honorable mention ($175)

Natalie Cunningham (Archaeoastronomy Survey of SE Utah) – participant ($75)

Becca Simon (History Colorado) – participant ($75)

Brenna Fennessey (Totah Archaeological Project Field School) – participant ($75)

Julia Coverdale (Kansas State Univ) – participant ($75)


Thank you to all participants, judges, audience members, and donors to the Cordell Powers prize!


Photo caption:

Cordell-Powers Prize Competition participants in Mancos, Colorado, August 7th 2021 (l to r): Chris Schwartz, Natalie Cunningham, Julia Coverdale, Brenna Fennessey, Becca Simon, Liv Winnicki, Ali Livesay, Daniel Perez, Sean Field, Kelsey Hanson.



Kelsey Hanson

Cordell Prize - 2021

It is such a profound honor to receive the 2021 Cordell Prize. I am currently a PhD candidate in the
School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona and my Cordell/Powers talk centered on a very
unique time in my dissertation research. Titled “The Hidden Histories of Colors: Lessons from a
Pandemic Pigment Lab,” I shared how disruptions to my research in archaeological paint technology
imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic actually provided an opportunity to learn about paint in new ways.
While widespread museum and lab closures made it impossible to analyze archaeological paint, I
transformed my studio apartment into a makeshift “pigment lab” and began making my own paint. In
the process, I sought the expertise of natural pigment artists through social media and learned new
ways of understanding how paint is made. This came in handy during a brief trip to the Maxwell
Museum in July 2021, where I examined Chacoan pigment, paint production tools, and painted media.
Thanks to my Covid-imposed experimentation, I was able to identify some particularly ingenious paint
production techniques that traditional elemental, mineralogical, and chemical analysis alone would not
have captured! Moving forward, my dissertation will draw from archaeological, ethnographic, and
experimental knowledge to examine histories of paint technology in the Chaco World. The
Cordell/Power Prize Competition gave me the opportunity to pause and reflect on what I’ve learned so
far and share it in a compelling and engaging way. Thank you to the organizers, donors, and judges to
their investment in future generations of archaeologists.



Cordell Prize - 2019

I am honored to have received the 2019 Pecos Conference’s Cordell Prize. My paper, “Corrugated Pottery: A Legible Record?,” pieced together prehispanic ceramic production through the study of Ancestral Puebloan and Mogollon pottery with exposed coils. I found that, throughout the Southwest, prehispanic potters consistently chose to build in a counterclockwise direction unlike their historic and contemporary counterparts. I always enjoy sharing my research on corrugated wares, and Pecos was the perfect venue. The competition challenged me to effectively convey information without audiovisual support, which led me to create a more physical, fun, and lively talk. I channel that same energy into my work as a graduate student and research assistant at the University of New Mexico, where I am studying northern Southwest archaeology, ceramics, and the impact of population dynamics on material culture change. These days, I am assisting with research on Chaco Canyon and working in the collections of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. I would like to give a huge thanks to Linda Cordell and Robert Powers, as well as all the organizers, board members, donors, and volunteers who make the Pecos Conference happen.



Powers Prize - 2019

Winning the Powers Prize for my paper “The Mystery of the Salado (or something vaguely like it)” was quite a validating experience for me, as there seemed to be many possible ways to fail in attempting to present a critical and theoretical paper of this kind. Instead, I found an appreciative audience for some difficult ideas that are nonetheless very important to me, and I think, to our discipline. Archaeologists and broader communities have a lot to gain through understanding how our analytical thought and practice shape the kinds of knowledge we are able to build about the past. The Cordell/Powers Prize Competition spurred me to work on communicating challenging ideas in an engaging and accessible way, and also forced me to think hard enough about vagueness to talk about it clearly. I’m currently at Arizona State University, working on a dissertation in which I will apply this critical approach through an examination of manifestations of the Salado phenomenon in the Phoenix Basin of Arizona. This Pecos Conference paper captured a bit of what motivates my work, and I look forward to developing these ideas further and enjoying the challenges along the way. 



Powers Prize - 2018

I won the Powers Prize in 2018 for my talk “Why Public Archaeology is Important: A Year of Bruised Hands and a Shocking Lack of Dinosaurs.” Since then my bruised hands have healed and I have been studying at the University of New Mexico pursuing my Master’s Degree in Public Archaeology. In addition to being a full-time student, I am currently a Graduate Assistant at UNM, a Research Assistant helping out with a study on ancient plasters in Tonto National Monument and Canyon de Chelly, as well as an intern at Coronado and Jemez Historic Sites leading a community archaeological excavation.  Winning the Powers Prize has encouraged me to continue to use humor and passion as a means of engaging diverse audiences about archaeology and how important it is to do so….. for there is still a shocking lack of dinosaurs in archaeology and somebody’s got to be the bearer of bad news. Educate, engage, inspire, advocate. Loudly.



Cordell Prize - 2018

Since being named the recipient of the 2018 Cordell Prize, I have been busy participating in a range of field projects and continuing my own original research as PhD student at Binghamton University. My contest entry was a spatial analysis of shield iconography within Pueblo III communities, which I have subsequently published in an article in the interdisciplinary journal ABD, based out of the University of Buffalo. This past year I finished my second season of working as an archaeologist at Navajo National Monument, enjoyed doing archaeological survey projects for Westland Resources and Desert Archaeology, and joined the fantastic cultural resource staff at Coronado National Forest. This summer I will be returning as the Survey Director for Archaeology Southwest’s Preservation Field School on the Upper Gila. On the research front I have taken part in multiple rock art recording sessions at Chaco Canyon to begin the laying the groundwork for my dissertation on Chacoan iconography. The Cordell-Powers Prize Competition was an opportunity to present my research to my peers and the public alike and  would like to thank the organizers, donors, judges for their continued dedication. 



Cordell Prize - 2017

Since winning the Cordell Prize, I have been accepted into the Museum Studies Master’s program at the University of New Mexico. I have also been promoted from Historic Site Ranger to Instructional Coordinator and Supervisory Archaeologist for the Northern Region of New Mexico Historic Sites (Coronado, Jemez, and Los Luceros). I am passionate about presenting archaeology in an interesting way to the public. My goal is to introduce New Mexico’s past to its future by creating engaging interpretive materials using emergent technologies. I am currently coordinating a complete renovation of the Jemez Historic Site exhibit as well as several public archaeology projects that will allow locals to literally dig into their history. Participating in the Cordell/Powers Prize has pushed me to be innovative and concise with my work as well as with how I present my work to the public.  



Powers Prize - 2017, Cordell Prize - 2016

I am not technically a recipient of the first-place prize, but I have been honored for my graduate student office at Binghamton University to be graced by both second-place objects:  the St. Linda Retablo (2016) AND the Pueblo Gothic Powers Tile (2017). The prize money has been helpful paying for sins committed at the book tent, while the prize objects themselves have served as sources of inspiration through several grant proposals and article revisions - not to mention my current dissertation research on political organization in early Chacoan communities. Following a successful several months of dissertation fieldwork in the Fall of 2017, I am currently writing my dissertation in Binghamton, New York.  I expect to defend my dissertation by the end of 2018.  Many thanks to the donors, judges, and artists, the Cordell-Powers Prize Committee, and of course Linda and Bob.



Powers Prize - 2016

My contest entry was based on my master’s thesis research at Brown University, which explored the role of gambling in the Chaco culture as described in Native oral histories. Fueled by the positive reception of my presentation, I published an article in American Antiquity describing evidence for and social significance of gambling at Chaco. Currently, I am a Research Associate with the Solstice Project, where Anna Sofaer and I are co-authoring a book and research papers, developing educational films, giving public talks, and leading tours of Chaco Canyon. Independently, I am working on a large-scale comparison of Gambler mythologies from tribes throughout the Southwest, as well as an interdisciplinary history of Chaco that brings together research on gambling, roads and LiDAR, archaeoastronomy, and landscape with oral traditions, linguistic data, cross-cultural analysis, and new investigations of metaphors and concepts embedded in Chacoan architecture. The Cordell-Powers competition offered me an early glimpse into the satisfaction of presenting archaeological research to diverse audiences in an engaging yet data-substantiated fashion.



Cordell Prize - 2015

I won the Cordell prize in 2015 during a post-doctoral appointment at Washington State University, where I earned my PhD in 2014. During a post-doc, I adapted my Cordell Prize presentation, “What is the Pecos Classification, Anyway?,” into a formal paper, which was published in the AAAS journal Science Advances in 2016. Another paper, with coauthors Johnathan Rush, Keith Kintigh, and Tim Kohler, “Exploration and Exploitation in the Macrohistory of the Pre-Hispanic Pueblo Southwest,” received widespread press attention, and I was interviewed for an episode of NPR’s Science Friday. In 2016, I joined the Research Institute at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, where my work focused on enhancing the computational infrastructure at the Center and developing tools for researchers to access paleoenvironmental data. In January 2017, I started my own consulting business focusing on archaeological data analysis and climate modeling, eventually following my fiancé to Montana. In addition to my consulting work, I am currently an assistant research professor at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, NV; a researcher with the Montana Climate Office at the University of Montana; and a research associate at Crow Canyon. I live with my husband John and our golden retriever Molly in Missoula.



Cordell Prize - 2014

I received the inaugural Cordell Prize in 2014 for a paper on Low-Cost Methods for Rock Art Documentation. Subsequent to receiving the award, I completed my master’s degree at Northern Arizona University. I am currently the archaeologist for the BLM Price Field Office in Utah, where I manage a variety of archaeological resources including Barrier Canyon, Fremont, and Ute period rock art, as well as both prehistoric and historic cultural resources. Together with the Price Field Office, we have been partnering with youth for stewardship activities in Nine Mile Canyon, including a public excavation of a Fremont Pit House in the fall of 2017. The Cordell Prize competition helped me acquire the skills necessary to present complex archaeological topics to a varied audience within a set time limit, and I use this skill as part of my regular duties. 

Special Thanks

The Cordell-Powers Prize Committee would like to thank the many, many people who make this contest possible.  We are grateful for all of our generous donors, particularly Mr. and Mrs. John Hinhant, Joe the Book Guy, and all the contributors to the Silent Auction.  We have all enjoyed a very high quality of contestant presentations, and we are thankful to all of our entrants for their contributions.  Second, third, and fourth-place winners to date have included Robert Bischoff, Valerie Bondura, Joseph Bryce, Tanya Chiykowski, Cody Dopra, Erina Gruner, Elizabeth Hora- Cook, Katie Richards, and David Sabata.  The contest could not operate without the time and effort contributed by all the many people who have served as judges from 2014 to the present.  To date, judges have included Erin Baxter, Ben Bellorado, Kyle Bocinsky, Cathy Cameron, Helen Crotty, Ethan Ortega, Kelley Hays-Gilpin, Joan Mathien, Helen O’Brien, Bob Powers, Paul Reed, Lori Stephens, Kellam Throgmorton, Ruth Van Dyke, Laurie Webster, and Rob Weiner.  If you would like to judge, let one of us know!  The steering committee is chaired by Joan Mathien and consists of Cathy Cameron, Helen O’Brien, Cory Breternitz, Kellam Throgmorton, and Ruth Van Dyke.  If you would like to be involved in the steering committee, please talk with one of us. 


Finally and most importantly, we thank Linda and Bob for their inspiration and mentorship, and for this terrific Pecos legacy.  We know they would be proud of all the CPP contestants, past, present, and future.