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Cordell/Powers Prize

A speaking competition for young archaeologists in honor of Linda Cordell and Robert Powers. Think of it as archaeology's version of an elevator pitch, but under a big tent and with a cash prize.


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Update: The call for Cordell/Powers Prize participants will go out soon.



Linda Cordell

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.


Robert Powers

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.

Previous Winners:

Cordell Prize 2023 Kelsey Reese

Kelsey Reese

Cordell Prize - 2023

Coming soon

Powers Prize 2023 Liv Winnicki

Liv Winnicki

Powers Prize - 2023

Coming soon

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Wade Campbell

Cordell Prize - 2022

My presentation this year grew out of work I did as part of Archaeology Southwest’s summer 2022 “cultural landscape inventory” study at Chaco Canyon National Park. In my talk (a modified version of which is now available as an ArchSW blog post, I discussed how the legacy of older theoretical paradigms surrounding archaeological views towards Diné (Navajo) history in the Four Corners region have affected our understanding of Chaco Canyon’s rich 400-year-plus Diné history. After several years of competing (and a stint as a judge), I’m immensely honored to have received the 2022 Cordell Prize! My deepest thanks to the judges and the Cordell-Powers committee. A special thanks is owed to Paul Reed as well - my participation in ArchSW’s project grew out of a conversation the two of us had at the 2019 Pecos Conference in Cloudcroft, providing yet another example of why the Pecos Conference matters to Southwestern archaeology and where the discussions that happen under (and outside of) the big tent can lead!


Joaquín Montoya

Powers Prize - 2022

My presentation this year was an extension of my Master of Arts (MA) thesis research at New Mexico Highlands University, which was completed in 2021. What started as two simple questions about a single site (How old is this place and who were the people who lived here) evolved into a question about the larger Pecos region. Mainly, are Developmental Period sites in the Upper Pecos representative of an early Ancestral Pecos population? There has been little academic focus on this question, and my goal is to raise awareness and generate interest in this topic. As a first time presenter, no one was more surprised than I to have been awarded the 2022 Powers Prize. I am currently employed as a member of the Cultural Resources Team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, but may yet pursue this topic in a Ph.D. program. I have also worked in the Cultural Resources Management field for Aspen CRM Solutions. Concurrent to my work and educational background, but nonetheless impactful to my own personal development, I have also served nearly 14 years in the Army National Guard. As someone raised in the Española Valley and who can trace my family’s presence in Northern New Mexico back to the seventeenth-century, I am privileged to live and work so close to my cultural roots, and am humbled to share in the study and preservation of the history of our Pueblo neighbors. I would like to acknowledge Dr. Warren Lail, Victoria Evans, and Lorraine Ortiz for their assistance and patience throughout the process of completing my master’s degree. Additionally, I would like to acknowledge my family, friends, colleagues, and mentors. Their support and guidance is truly invaluable. Lastly, I would like to thank the organizers, donors, and judges for carrying on the legacies of Dr. Linda Cordell and Robert Powers.


Christopher Schwartz

Powers Prize - 2021

I have given variations of my Powers Prize-winning talk, “’Polly want a kernel?’: Transporting and Raising Scarlet Macaws in the Pre-Hispanic US Southwest and Mexican Northwest”, but none to date were as lively and exhilarating as the one given in Mancos, Colorado for the 2021 Pecos Conference. Archaeologists often talk about the dynamic processes of trade and exchange in static terms and under the big tent at Pecos, I challenged this notion by considering what it would have been like to transport and raise scarlet macaws in the past. With the help of my friend and collaborator, Kelley Taylor, and a real-life twelve-week-old scarlet macaw, folks were able to see, hear, and experience what carrying and caring for this bird would have entailed (spoiler: it would have been really challenging!). Hopefully, it was as memorable an experience for the Pecos crowd as it was for me! A week after leaving Mancos, I began a lecturer position at Northern Arizona University, where the Powers Prize now hangs proudly in my office. If you’re interested in this paper, please do check out the chapter on which this talk is based (co-authored with Kelley Taylor and Michelle Hegmon) in the forthcoming volume Birds of the Sun: Macaws and People in the US Southwest and Mexican Northwest (ant. Spring 2022). Finally, thank you to the Cordell/Powers prize committee, judges, organizers, and of course to Linda Cordell and Robert Powers for their extraordinary legacies and continued influence in Southwest archaeology.


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. 

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