Archaeologists from Poland have been conducting excavations and research in Colorado for over a decade. Led by Professor Radosław Palonka from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, the team has made some unexpected discoveries at an ancient settlement site located on the Mesa Verde plateau near the border of Colorado and Utah.

This picturesque region is well known for its cliff dwellings and other structures left behind by the Pre-Columbian Pueblo people who lived in the area for thousands of years until the mid-1300s.

The Pueblo were skilled farmers and builders, constructing multi-story stone homes and towns reminiscent of European settlements from the medieval era.

They were also renowned artists, crafting ornate jewelry, pottery painted with detailed designs, and petroglyphs – intricate rock art carved into canyon walls and boulders.

Prof. Palonka’s team has been focusing their work at the Castle Rock Pueblo complex. Through excavations and new surveying techniques, they have uncovered extensive rock art panels, structures, and artifacts that were previously unknown.

This includes huge galleries of petroglyphs dating back over two millennia, to the Basketmaker period beginning in the 3rd century AD. Scenes show early indigenous warriors and shamans.

Later images from the 12th-13th century feature elaborate geometric shapes. Hunting scenes depicting bison and other animals appeared during the Ute occupation in the 15th-17th century.

In recent field seasons, an unexpected discovery was made high on remote plateaus above the cliff dwellings. Using information from local elders, the researchers found over four kilometers of massive petroglicphs stretched across the rock.

Intricate spirals over a meter wide were carved for astronomical observations of solstices and equinoxes. This indicates the 13th century Pueblo community was likely much larger and their religious practices more elaborate than previously thought.

To gain new insights, the team partnered with researchers from the University of Houston to conduct a LiDAR survey from airplanes.

This advanced mapping technology can “see” through dense vegetation and terrain to detect hidden archaeological features.

Its high-resolution 3D maps may uncover entirely new sites that enhance our understanding of the earliest inhabitants.

Collaboration with Native American tribes also helps shed light on the cultural meanings within the archaeological record.

Through innovative techniques and international cooperation, Prof. Palonka and his colleagues continue piecing together the deeper history of this sacred ancestral homeland.

Their work yields new perspectives about the advanced achievements and astronomical knowledge of North America’s indigenous peoples.


Jagiellonian University in Kraków

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