As of 2005, over 6,000 individual archaeological sites have been identified within Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients National Monument protects an archaeologically-rich landscape of primarily Ancestral Puebloan ruins, as well as natural and geological resources. More than 6,000 archaeological sites have been recorded to date, with up to 100 sites per square mile in some areas.
Humans have occupied this geologically diverse region for at least 10,00 years. Its first settlers in the 900s were Ancient Pueblo people, followed by hunter-gatherer ancestors of the Ute and Navajo tribes and then by Spanish missionaries and Anglo American miners.
Photo: mypubliclands, flickr
Canyons of the Ancients preserves important shrines, petroglyphs and stone towers, as well as villages and cliff dwellings such as:
- Lowry Pueblo National History Landmark, an ancient community dwelling consisting of 8 kivas (ritualistic rooms) and 40 rooms built as high as three stories. The underground great kiva was built about AD 1103 and had murals painted over about 5 layers of plaster. It's thought that the Lowry Pueblo may have been a local center for religious gatherings and celebration.
- Painted Hand Pueblo, a site consisting of unexcavated ruins built upon boulders along a cliff-face and a standing tower. This pueblo received its name from a boulder with pictographs of hands.
- Sand Canyon Pueblo, one of the largest pueblos of the 13th century. It contains at least 420 rooms, 90 kivas and 14 towers. A spring runs through the center of the walled site that held up to 725 people. By 1290 the pueblo was abandoned, never to be inhabited again by Puebloan people.
Video: Five Native Americans of different generations and affiliations talk about their connection to their ancestral home.
Video: preservationnation, YouTube
Three Wilderness Study Areas exist within the national monument: Cahone Canyon, Cross Canyon and Squaw/Papoose Canyon. The region is also home to key wildlife like the Golden eagle, Mesa Verde nightsnake, Peregrine falcon, muskrat, beaver and bobcat.
Most of the site is open to exploration, but take heed, as few marked trails exist at this "outdoor museum." Visitors looking for current information about trail and road conditions or general orientation should make a pit stop at the Anasazi Heritage Center before heading out into the national monument.
The Wilderness Society is working with communities and federal agencies on the ground in the Colorado Plateau to ensure that wild and culturally rich places like Canyons of the Ancients National Monument are safe from drilling and mining. We’re also working to make sure that the communities in the region are safe from the pollution caused by mining and drilling.
Photo: Golden eagle, ThreeIfByBike, flickr