It's a long trip from Krakow, Poland, to Cortez, Colorado—but for Radoslaw (Radek) Palonka, Ph.D., it's a trip worth making year after year.
Radek is a professor at Jagiellonian University in Krakow—one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in Europe (and whose alumni include Renaissance-era mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus). Radek first came to the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in 2005 and 2006 as a post-graduate field intern to work on the Goodman Point project, then returned again in 2009 to finish his Ph.D. dissertation.
"I found Crow Canyon on the internet," says Radek with a laugh. "It looked like a good opportunity to study Southwestern archaeology. I had just started work on my Ph.D., and the topic of my dissertation was (going to be) some kind of Southwestern archaeology."
During his time on the Goodman Point project, Radek got to know a number of Crow Canyon archaeologists and researchers.
"Bill Lipe attended my Ph.D. defense in Krakow," says Radek. "It was very good for me to work with Crow Canyon. It was a strong introduction to Southwestern archaeology, and Crow Canyon staff helped me a lot in preparing my dissertation, especially Mark Varien and Bill Lipe."
Radek is currently a research associate with the Research Institute at Crow Canyon. Since 2011 he has directed the Sand Canyon-Castle Rock Community Archaeological Project, in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, and Crow Canyon. This year, he returned to Crow Canyon with seven of his students for over a month to continue work on the McElmo Canyon-focused study.
Thanks to your generous financial support, Crow Canyon has been able to assist this important long-term research project by providing cost-effective housing and meals and research support. This includes training and consultation from Crow Canyon's laboratory and archaeological staff, and connecting the him with Pueblo cultural specialists who provide consultation on the project's research.
Radek says that as a child he was fascinated by stories of the Old West and Native American culture, but he first went to school to become an engineer before turning his attention to archaeology.
"At first I was interested in Mississippian culture from the eastern United States," says Radek. "But when I started my Ph.D. program I wanted to study a place where there is a direct cultural connection between the past and the present. And there is no better place to study cultural continuity from past to present than here in the Southwest. I did my dissertation on defensive architecture in the central Mesa Verde region, both in the national park and in surrounding areas."
His current research generally centers on the Sand Canyon and Castle Rock areas of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument around McElmo Canyon just outside of Cortez.
"I am studying the settlement structure and the connection between sites (at Canyons of the Ancients)," says Radek, who is also interested in the rock art panels found across the area. "(We are) looking at the relationship between the rock art panels, the sites, and the landscape."
Radek says that he's very thankful for the help Crow Canyon has given him during his research.
"Being able to work with Crow Canyon researches and staff has been very important to me and my students," says Radek. "Thank you!"