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Indigenous peoples, old and new

Mesa Verde, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients, together, all tell a story of what the Land and the Life around the Four Corners was 1200 or more years ago.  Over 30,000 people lived in the surrounding valleys and mesas, much more than today.  Their culture and architecture slowly evolving and developing, its thought they depleted their resources, leaving it devoid of trees, soil fertility, and game.  With a severe drought of over 20 years setting in, they all had to move on to greener pastures.  Sound familiar?

I really was at Mesa Verde.  Proof.

I really was at Mesa Verde. Proof.

Wow

Wow

Another dwelling site

Another dwelling site

Photo taken across the canyon.  How did they get they there, let alone build it?

Photo taken across the canyon. How did they get they there, let alone build it?

Traveling to Hovenweep, the road was incredibly beautiful.  I slept under the stars at the Monument, dreaming powerful dreams of eagles and hawks.  The Monument is primitively developed.  A walking path takes you around to each ruin.  If desired, you can drive further east to several out building ruins off dirt roads and trails.  These buildings, although constructed around the same late period as Mesa Verde (and not occupied for more than a generation or two), are architecturally very different.  Their purpose was unknown, but to me they appeared as fortresses, possibly lookout towers to alert the villages of approaching marauders as food and resources became scarcer.

All buildings were built on rock ledges overlooking canyons

All buildings were built on rock ledges overlooking canyons

My very favorite.  The boulder is gigantic its built upon

My very favorite. The boulder is gigantic its built upon

Nearby, the fairly new National Monument, Canyons of the Ancients, doesn’t even yet have literature, nor thankfully, roads.  There are over 4000 archaeological sites scattered throughout BLM managed land.  I drove up to Lowry to view one of the premier ruins, which was fully excavated in the 30’s.  These ruins are from an earlier time than Mesa Verde and Hovenweep and were clearly living quarters, with one of the three underground kivas surviving intact.

Description of ruins at Canyons of the Ancients

Description of ruins at Canyons of the Ancients

My favorite was a nearby extremely large kiva.  Clearly this kiva was used ceremonially as a gathering spot for clans and families from all around the area.  To get to these ruins, you drive a lonely dirt road through pastures and farmlands.  Nobody was there, as opposed to Mesa Verde where the walks were led by rangers with many visitors participating.

Central gathering Kiva

Central gathering Kiva

I had the wonderful opportunity to sit quietly, alone, and feel the powerful energy of that large kiva, letting my imagination fill in the gaps of wonderous gatherings of song, dance and ceremony.  That is my favorite site.

After I left Hovenweep, I headed for the Navajo reservation where I spent the night (which I’ll describe in a separate post).  I told a Navajo woman that I’d come from Mesa Verde.  We talked of these magnificent buildings and experienced builder.  I told her I wondered about how theses ancient people were able to climb down from the mesas to the buildings below (rangers say it was by handholds they made in the rock).

“Some people say they could fly.”

“That’s probably the best explanation I’ve heard”, I replied.

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