On March 5, David (Dave) Breternitz passed away at the age of 82. Dave was a major figure in Southwestern archaeology and a beloved friend to many Crow Canyon staff members.
Dave served on the faculty of the University of Colorado (CU), Boulder, for 24 years, and during that time he directed CU’s field school and a variety of archaeological projects in nine states and in Tunisia and Nigeria. He was the senior principal investigator for the Dolores Archaeological Program (DAP) during the 1970s and 80s, where he guided the careers of many budding Southwestern archaeologists. Many of Dave’s DAP “graduates” have worked, or continue to work, at Crow Canyon.
Dave was a supporter of Crow Canyon and served on a research advisory board for the Center in the organization’s early days. In 1992, he was elected a Colorado Council of Professional Archaeologists fellow.
Dave lived in Dove Creek, approximately 35 miles from the Crow Canyon campus, with his wife, Barbara. He was an avid supporter of local schools, in particular the Dove Creek High School, and always attended Dove Creek football games.
Crow Canyon Supervisory Archaeologist Grant Coffey, who lives and grew up in Dove Creek, said, “Many people on our staff knew him well, and he made an impression that was not easily forgotten. He was a singular individual who shaped archaeology in Colorado and in other parts of the Southwest in ways too numerous to detail. His strength, wisdom, and companionship will be sorely missed.”
Dave was known by friends for his irreverent wit and sharp intellect, and they share countless stories from his long and illustrious career. In a dedication to Dave, former Crow Canyon director of research and current board member Bill Lipe recalled several stories. Bill said, “There are lots of stories out there like mine, from three generations of archaeologists who came under the spell of Dave's encyclopedic knowledge of the Southwest and his unflagging enthusiasm for archaeology.” Read Bill’s entire dedication here.
Crow Canyon Senior Research Archaeologist Kristin Kuckelman worked with Dave on several projects. She said, “I always enjoyed working with Dave―he had a keen intellect, high scientific standards, an offbeat sense of humor, and an insatiable passion for archaeology. I met Dave nearly 35 years ago, when I worked on the DAP. Later we collaborated on research of plaster on the walls of the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, where I learned that he had absolutely no fear of heights! Most recently, he lent his expertise to a study of the hydrology of Goodman Point Pueblo. Dave was truly one of a kind and will be very much missed in the archaeological community.”
Crow Canyon Research and Education Chair Mark Varien also worked with Dave during the DAP. He said, “Dave gave me my start in the archaeology of the Southwest when he hired me to work on the DAP in 1979, and he continued to support me throughout my career. Dave was an amazing scholar in many ways, and he never lost his passion for understanding the human past and making that relevant to the world we live in today. Dave also had an encyclopedic memory for archaeological literature; if you had a question about a reference, he could not only remember the publication, but also the page on which a particular topic was discussed. It was phenomenal, and I drew on that talent of his on more than one occasion.”
Dave will be missed by his friends and the many generations of archaeologists he influenced. He is survived by Barbara, his wife of 59 years; his son, Cory (Adrian); his daughters, Susan (Doug) Goulding and Nancy Steele; and seven grandchildren, Jessie Breternitz, Anne, Rob (Olivia), and Jim Goulding, and Lacy, Nikki, and Kori Lee Steele. He was preceded in death by his parents and by his grandson Dylan.
Photo (right) courtesy of Greg Hobbs.
Cover photo courtesy of Erin Baxter and the Koshare Indian Museum.