On Saturday, the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum unveiled a new exhibit highlighting the discoveries of a Polish archaeology team.
“From Krakow to Castle Rock,” a collection of photographs and artifacts from about eight years of research by Polish archaeology professor Radosław Palonka and his students in the Jagiellonian archaeological field school. The field school’s work, which represents a rare international collaboration with Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, included several significant discoveries in Sand Canyon, East Rock Creek and other parts of the monument. The exhibit will remain on display for a year.
Since his partnership with the monument began in 2011, Palonka has brought students every year from Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, to hone their skills on some of the roughly 30,000 archaeological sites in Canyons of the Ancients. Bureau of Land Management archaeologist Vincent MacMillan said the students’ research has been widely published in Europe, and the photos in the “Krakow to Castle Rock” exhibit have been displayed in Poland and Germany. But Saturday was their first time being displayed for visitors to the monument itself.
“This is a way to bring it all together, to show the public what’s been going on out there,” he said.
Palonka originally planned to attend the exhibit opening, but MacMillan said he canceled his flight from Poland at the last minute because of a family illness. Instead, MacMillan spoke to the moderately-sized crowd that attended, describing the field school’s work in Canyons of the Ancients and the ways it has helped local archaeologists understand the peoples who once lived there.
Some of the most significant research Palonka and his students have done, MacMillan said, involved a large rock art panel that contains not only petroglyphs dating to the time of the Ancestral Puebloans but also the carved names of prominent figures in Montezuma County’s more recent history, like 1930s trapper Melvin Forest and Ute Mountain Ute rodeo cowboy Ira Cuthair.
After the students documented it, Crow Canyon archaeologists have been able to research the people who left their mark on the panel and find out what might have brought them to the canyon.
MacMillan wouldn’t say exactly where the panel is located, except that it’s in the middle of the monument in a place that has not been developed for public use. He said visitors are welcome to try and find it on their own by exploring the monument.
In addition to photos of field school students and their discoveries, the exhibit also includes several pottery artifacts from the areas in the canyon they explored. Visitors can pick up a bibliography listing all the publications where the field school’s research has appeared, although MacMillan warned the crowd on Saturday that they are mostly in Polish.
Jagiellonian University is the only international organization currently exploring Canyons of the Ancients, although MacMillan said a group of people from Scottish company Routescene will visit the area starting next week to document archaeological sites with the company’s laser mapping technology.
MacMillan said he and Palonka have discussed bringing Jagiellonian students in other disciplines in the future – particularly those studying geology and paleontology, which are areas he said have gone largely unexplored in the monument.
“We believe there’s a big potential for it, just waiting for somebody to come in,” he said.
“From Krakow to Castle Rock,” which is replacing the Visitor Center’s previous special exhibit on the Wetherill family, will remain on display through July 2019. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer, and admission is $3 for adults.