Friday, May 4, 2012

Homes of the Ancients

I love camping.  With the great Spring weather we've been having here in Flyover Country, my husband and I decided to take a quick little camping trip.  My sister, Sharon (who manages the Moab Information Center), has had wonderful things to say about the ruins at Hovenweep National Monument; so we decided to take a little road trip to see what they were all about.  I'm so glad we did!!!

Hovenweep is a lesser-known (and lesser-visited) site where the "Ancient Puebloans" (also known as the Anazasi) lived, built, and flourished about 700 years ago.  Unlike nearby Mesa Verde, where their homes were built into cliffs in the canyon walls, the Ancient Puebloans who lived at Hovenweep built towers on the canyon rims and on top of boulders.  The tower ruins are amazing! 

Some of the structures have "basements" under the canyon rim or on the bedrock.

 Some of the structures are built right on top of boulders (or "in" the boulder). 
 Some of structures are found in the canyon bottom.  It is amazing to see what those "Ancients" could do with stone and mortar!  If you ever visit the Four Corners area of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona....a trip to Hovenweep is worth the "off the beaten path" travel. 

After camping at Hovenweep, we took a 41-mile back road that sorta went toward home.  We took a county road that started at the historic Hatch Trading Post and went North into beautiful Montezuma Canyon.  (Local legend has it that the last Aztec King, Montezuma, escaped his Spanish captors and fled North into this area, where he was pursued and recaptures.  Who knows the real story???)  Anyway, Montezuma Canyon was also home to the Ancients.  There is a mix of public and private lands along the Canyon, and the public lands are managed by the again, these sites are little known and little visited; but there are a lot of them!  We saw a lot of really cool petroglyphs along the route, as well as numerous granaries built into the cliffs surrounding the Canyon.  (The Ancients built granaries to store the grain and other foodstuffs they harvested from the Canyon floor.)
Some of the petroglyphs were actually above the granaries. 

I thought this one was pretty interesting.  It was chipped into the cliff right above what appeared to be a small cliff house or a big granary.  Right next to it was a small hand. 

I thought this one looked like a whale....but my husband didn't agree.  Maybe it was a map.  Maybe it was just a way to say "Joe was here."  Who knows? 
Some of the Granaries were really in great shape. Some were in ruins.  All were hard to see, because they are high on the cliffside and, of course, made of the same color stone as the surrounding cliffs.  Can't you just imagine someone getting ready to fill the granary with corn, or beans, or whatever??? 

Along the route is also the ruins of the "Three Kiva Pueblo."  This group of Ancients actually built their home in the middle of the Canyon, next to the creek.  I guess they felt safe there.  The BLM has restored one of the Kivas and allow visitors to go inside.  (The rest of the site is in ruins, but you can see how big the Pueblo was from the mounds and scattered sandstone building rock.)  It was very interesting to see the Kiva from the inside out.    

Just past the Kiva is a cliff-dwelling site.  The ruins are protected with a fence, so people can't easily climb up and disturb the ruins.  The dwellings are as big as some at Mesa Verde, although (of course) they haven't been restored.  Nevertheless, some of the ruins are in pretty good shape, considering their age.  If you look closely, and if you consider the fallen rock, you can see that this settlement used just about every available crack and crevice in the cliff to build their homes.  You can also see how they used the cracks in the cliff to go from one level to another.  It was pretty awesome to see, and guess at, the adaptability of these "Ancients."

All in all, this short, quick, camping trip turned out to be a blast.  Extremely relaxing, extremely educational, and extremely fun! 

But then, that's Flyover Country for ya!