Polish Project in Colorado

The Sand Canyon-Castle Rock Community Archaeological Project is conducted in the central Mesa Verde region of southwestern Colorado, in three canyons: lower and central parts of Sand Canyon, East Fork of Rock Creek Canyon and Graveyard Canyon. In these canyons there are remains of several dozen Ancestral Pueblo culture small habitation sites including well-preserved cliff dwellings with sandstone architecture preserved up to second story, isolated towers, kilns, refugee sites, as well as one large site or the community center – Castle Rock Pueblo (Site 5MT1825). All these sites possibly functioned as a community of allied sites connected with different kind of ties during the thirteenth century A.D. In the second half of the thirteenth century most settlements were located in defensible places with limited accessibility and near water sources such as springs. There were also worsening climatic and environmental conditions, such as long-term droughts.

In 2014 we also started the documentation of large rock art sites located in Sandstone Canyon, approximately 16 kilometers northwest of the main research area. Depictions of rock art at this site have been initially dated from around the third to fifth centuries A.D. (Ancestral Pueblo culture) to the historical period and the appearance of the ancestors of the Ute and Navajo nomad tribes in this area. The petroglyphs depict mostly single geometric motifs, possibly clan symbols (the bear paw appears most often), shamans, and extended scenes that include fighting and also the hunting of large animals, mostly deer, bison, and bighorn sheep. Of course, on almost every panel of rock art modern graffiti or vandalism such as initials and names is also present; some of them were left by early Spanish and Euro-American explorers and settlers of the area and cowboys passing through the canyon with cattle at the turn of nineteenth and twentieth century.

All canyons under the investigations of the project are part of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, a legally protected area managed by the US Bureau of Land Management. This project is being conducted by the Institute of Archaeology, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland in cooperation with the American institutions Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Colorado. The project director is Dr. Radosław Palonka and from the beginning, the US Consulate General in Krakow has also been a partner of the project.





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