A pistol part found in a Mesa County excavation area could be as many as 500 years old and may bring to light some new information on Spanish colonial history in Colorado.
The part was found in the Kannah Creek area about 25 miles south of Grand Junction as part of an archaeological excavation conducted by the Museums of Western Colorado's Western Investigations Team.
The dig has been ongoing for about seven years and the part was found a few years ago, but it has been undergoing metallurgic testing, according to Museums of Western Colorado Curator of History David Bailey.
Referred to as a "dog," the part is a spring-load arm that was used as part of a Spanish wheellock pistol, which dates to 1500 to 1600. The wheellock predates flintlock pistols and muskets, which were first introduced in the 17th century.
The discovery is unusual for this region as most artifacts such as this one are typically found in Texas and New Mexico. It is believed that the Spanish didn't come to this region until the 1700s.
However, there are several theories as to how the part made its way to Colorado, according to Bailey.
One theory is that the materials were brought by a Spanish exploration party and traded with the Ute Indians in the area. Spanish armor parts and other colonial memorabilia have also been found at the site.
Bailey noted that a rondel dagger was discovered and is undergoing testing. That style of dagger originated in Europe in the Middle Ages.
"It's kind of like a puzzle," Bailey said. "We're getting all the pieces but still don't have a complete picture of what's going on."
The digging will continue at Kannah Creek, but Bailey said the long-term plan is to put the new discoveries on display as part of an exhibit.