Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is a national monument protecting an archaeologically-significant landscape located in the southwestern region of the U.S. state of Colorado. The monument's 176,056 acres (71,247 ha) are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, as directed in the Presidential proclamation which created the site on June 9, 2000. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is part of the National Landscape Conservation System, better known as the National Conservation Lands. This system comprises 32 million acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management to conserve, protect, and restore these nationally significant landscapes recognized for their outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values. Canyons of the Ancients encompasses and surrounds three of the four separate sections of Hovenweep National Monument, which is administered by the National Park Service. The monument was proclaimed in order to preserve the largest concentration of archaeological sites in the United States, primarily Ancestral Puebloan ruins. As of 2005, over 6,000 individual archeological sites had been identified within the monument.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is located 9 miles west of Pleasant View, Colorado in southwestern Colorado. The monument's northern and eastern boundaries are canyons. Its western boundary is the Colorado-Utah state border. Lands south are bordered by the Ute Mountain Reservation and McElmo Creek.
Ancient Pueblo people lived in the Canyons of the Ancients in the 10th century; Lowry Pueblo, built during the Great Pueblo period, was built atop pit-house built in the 10th century.
For a fuller understanding of the architecture and life style during this period, pueblo buildings in the Mesa Verde region were built with stone, windows facing south, and in U, E and L shapes. The buildings were located more closely together and reflected deepening religious celebration. Towers were built near kivas and likely used for look-outs. Pottery became more versatile, including pitchers, ladles, bowls, jars and tableware for food and drink. White pottery with black designs emerged, the pigments coming from plants. Water management and conservation techniques, including the use of reservoirs and silt-retaining dams also emerged during this period.
As refinements in construction techniques increased, the Puebloans built larger pueblos, or villages, on top of the pit-houses starting about AD 1090. Lowry Pueblo had just a few rooms and 2 kivas in 1090 and the village was expanded two times about 1103 and 1120 until it had 40 rooms, 8 kivas and one great kiva.
Like their ancient neighbors at Hovenweep National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park, the Lowry Pueblo dwellers were farmers and hunters. They grew beans, corn and squash and raised turkeys. They also made and decorated pottery.
At least 6,000 distinct structures have been identified in the monument, and the density of archeological remains is the highest of any region in the United States. The vast majority of stone structures in the national monument are from the Ancient Puebloans era.
More than 20,000 sites have been identified, in some places more than 100 sites per square mile. After building basic pit style structures at first, the Puebloans later built villages with cliff dwellings. Archaeological ruins also include Sweat lodges, kivas, shrines and petroglyphs. Reservoirs with stone and earthen dams, including spillways and also numerous check dams, built in case of flash floods. Stone towers which may have been lookout or sentry posts, are found scattered throughout the monument.
Unlike other Ancient Pueblo site abandonment, it appears that the people of the Canyons of the Ancients left the sites much earlier than their neighbors, some time in the mid-12th century. Some of the artifacts found from the site show a connection to the Chacoan culture, while others are similar to those of the Mesa Verde dwellers.
Other Ancient Pueblo people from the area migrated south to Arizona and New Mexico, ancestors to modern pueblo people such as the Hopi and Zuni. Modern Pueblo people are located on reservations primarily in New Mexico, but some in Arizona. The 60,000 people's pueblos and reservations reside in three geographic areas:along the Rio Grande canyon in New Mexico, such as the Taos Pueblo
southern New Mexican Zuni, Acuna, Laguna and Isleta pueblos and reservations
After 1300, hunter-gathers, ancestors of the Ute and Navajo, moved into the southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah and came to inhabit the region.The ancestors to the Navajo were one of the tribes of the southern division of the Athabaskan language family that migrated south from Alaska and northwestern Canada, most likely traveling through the Great Basin. The Navajo ancestors were in the area after AD 1300, but at least by the early 16th century.
The people from who the Ute descended arrived in the area from the west in this period from 1300 to the 18th century. The Ute's ancestors are hunter-gatherers who, in the 12th century, began migrating east from the present southern California area into a large hunter-gathering territory as far east as the Great Plains and in the canyons and mountains of eastern Utah and Colorado.
During this period, the Spanish colonial reach extended to northern New Mexico, where they settled in the 16th century. They introduced items for trade, such as guns and horses, new and deadly diseases, and cultural influence in the forms of religion, language, and forms of government. In the 18th century, Spanish missionaries visited the area looking for a route to Spanish missions in California. One of the expeditions was that of Spanish friars Silvestre Vélez de Escalante and Francisco Atanasio Domínguez who traveled from New Mexico, through western Colorado to Utah.
The first Anglo American people arrived in the early 19th century, starting with trappers. With the discovery of precious ores in the last decades of the 19th Century, miners and other settlers moved into the region. By the mid-19th century, the United States government and Native American tribes were at war over land ownership. People were forced to leave their homelands. The Navajo had moved south and the Ute territory was significantly reduced.
Lowry Pueblo was excavated in 1928 and went through a restoration process in 1965. Two years later, it was named a National Historic Landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historic places.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management administers the monument and enforces regulations balancing resource protection with land conservation. It was created by executive proclamation in 2000 with the intention of protecting the archaeological, natural and geological resources. Facilities at the Lowry Pueblo include parking, a picnic area, toilet and trail. Sand Canyon Pueblo also has a trail, which leads to McElmo Canyon.
There are three Wilderness study areas in the monument:Cahone Canyon, located about 4 miles southwest of the town of Cahone, Colorado, is about 9,156 acres. The wilderness area, varying from 5,900 to 6,000 feet (1,800 to 1,800 m) in elevation, consists of three canyons with piñon-juniper woodlands and riparian and sagebrush ecosystems.
Cross Canyon, located south of Cahone Canyon, about 14 miles southwest of the town of Cahone, Colorado, is about 12,721 acres, 1,008 acres cross into Utah. The wilderness area, varying from 5,140 to 6,500 feet (1,570 to 1,980 m) in elevation, consists of three canyons (Cross, Ruin, and Cow), with piñon-juniper woodlands and riparian and sagebrush ecosystems.
Squaw/Papoose Canyon is located about 12 miles south of Dove Creek and is about 11,357 acres, 6,676 acres cross into Utah. The wilderness area, varying from 5,300 to 6,600 feet (1,600 to 2,000 m) in elevation, consists of two canyons (Squaw and Papoose).
The Anasazi Heritage Center is also the visitor center for the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and includes artifacts from the monument, a museum with interactive exhibits, a library and a theatre. Information is available there regarding the Ancient Puebloan culture, Trail of the Ancients Byway and the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
Vandalism and treasure hunting are difficult to minimize due to an inadequate number of federal employees and law enforcement personnel to monitor and prosecute those who deface ruins or steal archeological remains. Thousands of undocumented artifacts have been removed from the monument and now reside in private collections. A news article in July 2006 reported that funding for the monument had decreased by almost 40% since 2004, and that a particularly severe looting episode occurred in January 2006.