Friday, December 9, 2016

The Blue Lady Travels in the Red Lands. She Visits New Mexico and Utah Places where the Ancestors Hung Out

After 4 days in the big city, time to head home
After Albuquerque I stopped at two places in New Mexico the first day and one in Utah the second. I deliberately decided not to attempt Chaco Culture because I read on the website about how difficult it is to drive there. I knew my car was up to the task, and it had not rained for some time so the road would have been dry. But I thought about whether or not I really wanted to drive over 70 miles round trip on dirt washboard roads, and decided, nah, not this time. I'll see if sometime I can't find a guided tour group that takes you there in a bus or van.

So I checked out Petroglyph first. This place is in what is now a suburb on  the west side of Albuquerque. This is a volcanic landscape where the remaining volcano cones are also part of the monument. The petrogylphs were made by chipping away the top layer of the rock to reveal a different colored layer below.

I suppose that is why there is such a concentration of glyphs in this place ... the rocks are just the idea medium. I have seem petroglyphs in other places in different kinds of rock, but they pictures are more scattered. Except for places that are now called "Newspaper Rock."
THIS "Newspaper Rock" is at El Morro in New Mexico

There are several "Newpaper Rocks" throughout the west. A lot of them also contain etchings by historic European ancestry peoples.  Ones that are farther north often have names and dates of Anglo travelers. I am kind of ok with that because today it's considered "historic". I'm not ok with late 20th / early 21st century people doing the same thing. We have plenty of other places where we can leave our marks.

Petroglyphs are hard to do, so they are kind of sparse and minimal. I really like the designs. Some are obvious as to what they are. Some are clearly symbols. But the big question remains, why, what does all this mean? Or does it mean anything at all?
A bird and what? 
Is it intended to convey some specific message to the maker's contemporaries? Surely the makers knew that their craft would last longer than any need for an immediate message. Like for example "there are deer over here." Duh. Anybody would know the deer would be long gone way before the picture got finished. And why tell your neighbors that the sun is up in the sky? They know that. But maybe the pictures equal a wish or a hope instead of a fact, as in "I wish some deer would decide to hang out around here." Or "It's nice when the sun shines, don't you think?"
Lok carefully. Pictures all over the place.

I guess the makers knew they were making something that was intended to last for a long time. To me, that sounds like what we now call "art."

Just outside of Farmington New Mexico is a small place called Aztec Ruins. I have to say this was my favorite stop because it is so intimate. Again it has nothing to do with the Aztecs. The builders were ancestors of the present day Pueblo people. It took several hundred years to complete the structures which were all made to a well designed plan.

Now you can walk in and around what is called the West Ruin. There are more ruins on the property which are not well excavated and are closed to the public.

West Ruin is clearly a ceremonial, public space. The reconstructed great kiva is the heart of it. The great kiva is used today by local native people for ceremonies some times. The rest is this warren of little rooms, two to five rooms deep, connected by aligned doorways from one to the next. There are also six smaller kivas within two sides, another smaller outside kiva and a final one which is on a terrace overlooking the whole site.
The Great Kiva is a reconstruction by the early archeologists

The whole complex is aligned with the sun so that the building itself can function as a kind of solar clock. On certain days the sun just shines straight through certain openings from one to the next. Of course I did not see how that worked because I was not there on  the right day at the right time, but the visitor center has pictures of how this works.
A unique feature at Aztec Ruins is the green colored striped bricks.
No one knows why they did this. I think it's beautiful.
Maybe the builders did too, and that seems to be enough to me.

I have never been inside a Mormon temple, but I kind of imagine that this structure at Aztec serves a similar function to what I know a temple does. It's s series of small and large rooms used for preparing for and performance of ceremonies, but to me it didn't really look like a place you would like to live in. It seems like a place you would visit for a specific purpose and then go home somewhere else ... perhaps quite close ... and fix supper. There was nothing that was identified as any kind of a kitchen on the site.
More beauty

The final day of my trip I headed back to Utah and checked off the remaining two out of three national monuments in Utah I had not yet visited. First I went to Hovenweep which I'll write about here. I'll save Natural Bridges for another post.
The drive here is pretty convoluted but the signs are clear,
and your MUST follow them, not use your GPS.

Hovenweep ... this time the explorers got the name kind of correct ... means "deserted valley" in Ute/Paiute. Like the other sites it was left behind by the builders sometime in the 1200s or so. These places where were the people lived. No doubt there are ceremonial places within the community, but most of the structures seemed to have some use for everyday living.
Oh I don't have notes about what this one is called!

What really amazes you is the towers that still are pretty much towers. They have Anglo names like "castle" or "horseshoe" or just "twin towers." Like most things, no one knows now why the towers were built where they were built. They look like structures designed for protection, but it is not at all clear what is being protected and from what or whom. One guess is water from "the rest of them other people" or something like that. There are seeps and springs near the structures.
As you can see above, I was there on a clear blue sky day.
But sometimes the sky can look like this too.

And again, no one knows while the people just up and left. Evidence is they headed south and ended up mostly in New Mexico as the present day Pueblo and/or Hopi people. Then the area got taken over by other folks who weren't so much into building with stone like the Utes or Navahos.

Similar to Walnut Canyon, a visitor can walk around the edge of a small canyon and /or take some trails down into the canyon to see some of the ruins more closely. The towers are on the top edge and you can get close to them but are not allowed to actually climb up or inside the remaining towers.

This is yet another "Dark Sky" site. There is a year round dry camp ground, and I imagine it must be quite the thing to do to stay here and see the stars in all their glory.

I WOULD like to do this someday.

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