EARLY HISTORY OF THE REGION
JOHN OTTO, early explorers, and even the Ute Indians who once hunted in the area were by no means the first people to view the Monument, in fact they were "Johnnies-come-lately." Considerable evidence indicates that prehistoric people inhabited the area thousands of years ago.
Many years ago Al Look, of Grand Junction, discovered and excavated two caves in the part of No Thoroughfare Canyon formerly outside the Monument. He found stone projectile points, knives, awls, milling stones, parts of a sandal and coiled basket, reed matting, corn, corncobs, acorns, and animal bones, but no potteryindicating that the people had not progressed beyond basket making. Similar artifacts were found in several other nearby places on the Uncompahgre Plateau. Archaeologists have named this old culture the Uncompahgre Complex, and date it back to a few thousand years before the time of Christ.5 It should be pointed out that it is unlawful to remove artifacts, fossils, rocks, or minerals from a National Park or Monument.
In the summer of 1963 an archaeological survey of Colorado National Monument was carried out, under the terms of an agreement between the National Park Service and the University of Colorado, by Stroh and Ewing and their field assistants.6 A total of 75 aboriginal sites were found of which 71 were within the Monument boundaries of that date, and 4 were closely adjacent. These comprised 41 open campsites, 24 rock shelters, 2 small caves, and 8 chipping stations. Artifacts recovered included 62 projectile points, 21 metates (grinding stones), 40 manos (hand stones), 111 whole or fragments of blades or scrapers, 6 choppers, several fragments of baskets, potsherds (bits of broken pottery) at two sites, 2 wood awls, several strands of yucca fibers, 3 corncobs, 6 kernels of corn, several bone fragments, storage cists at five sites, and petroglyphs at three locations.
Stroh and Ewing concluded that the majority of the sites appear to have been the campsites of a hunting and gathering people, and they speculated that there may have been aboriginal activity in the area from as long as several thousand years ago to relatively recent times.
The largest of the petroglyphs,7 or rock drawings, are on a fallen slab of Wingate Sandstone in No Thoroughfare Canyon, and are shown in figure 4. Archaeologist John Crouch (footnote 6), who kindly reexamined these petroglyphs in February 1980, told me that most of the figures appear to be Shoshonian (Ute), but that some may be of the Fremont culture8 or even older.
Last Updated: 8-Jan-2007