The Dolores Archaeological Program (DAP) was a massive project to salvage the research value of a large archaeological area in southwest Colorado, once densely settled and with thousands of homesites, before construction of McPhee Dam and Reservoir.
In 1977 the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) contracted the University of Colorado to perform archaeological and historical fieldwork and analysis in the reservoir area. Subcontracts went to Washington State University and other private firms. The dam was completed in 1985. For more information on the dam and water project, see the BOR's Dolores Project web site.
During six field seasons (19
78-1983) Dolores Program archaeologists surveyed and recorded 1,626 archaeological sites on 16,000+ acres in the project area. They fully excavated 125 sites, and collected over 1.5 million artifacts-- including historic glass bottles, a prehistoric bone tool kit, and thousands of ceramic vessels and fragments (sherds). DAP maps, photos, and records provide a vast knowledge base that otherwise would have disappeared forever. Almost 100 DAP Technical Reports are currently available for download in searchable PDF format.
As a part of the overall project, the Anasazi Heritage Center was constructed to preserve both artifacts and records in perpetuity. The AHC is an official federal repository for archaeological materials which continue to arrive from permitted, legitimate excavations on public land in southwest Colorado. The Anasazi Heritage Center is operated by the Bureau of Land Management and is the visitor center for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
Many DAP artifacts are on display at the Anasazi Heritage Center. The rest represent an invaluable resource for archaeologists, historians, graduate students, and other scholars and researchers. Anyone with a legitimate research interest may access the collection by prior arrangement with the museum's Curator.
Even though the DAP material was excavated decades ago, we are still learning from these artifacts today. New research technologies emerge and new questions arise, so these collections continue to provide new information and a deeper understanding of past lifeways.
The people whose ancestors lived here prefer minimal disturbance of their ancestral homes. The multitude of artifacts excavated during the DAP allow us to study the past without further intrusions.
Some people think that artifacts, though pretty to look at, have no value beyond the aesthetic. But archaeology is how we discover the past when written records are unavailable. Most of the long story of the human race can only be reconstructed through archaeological methods. In our time of profound social and environmental change, archaeology is more important than ever. Studying how ancient people impacted their landscape can inform our own modern decisions regarding the public lands our children will inherit.