Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Ancient Dwellings of the Anasazi


Across the southwestern US is a large collection of ancient native Indian villages.  Most are abandoned and in various stages of ruins.  A few of these villages survived the Spanish invasion and are still inhabited by a few of the natives. 

In my travels I made it a point to visit as many of these old village sites as possible.  A few were National Parks, like Mesa Verde, others were National Monuments, like Canyon De Chelley, and some were State Parks.  The ones on federal land like the BLM were abused and very neglected.  Yet with good maps I could search these places out and have quite the adventure bounding over the dirt roads into lots of back country. 

I have been scanning some slides into digital and it has brought back lots of memories of these jaunts.  I met various Archeologists and Anthropologists during these visits and read lots of books about the Ancient Ones.  I had a good friend that was an Archeologist that had been on digs to Mexico and South America plus other places in the world.  We would sit on evenings when I would visit and talk about the all types of old stuff. 

Over time my appreciation for what I was looking at grew.  How the dwellings were constructed the purpose of the various rooms and how the Indians lived thousands of years ago. 

The recent slides I scanned were from Frijoles Canyon, just West of Santa Fe, New Mexico on the edge of the Los Alamos Caldera. 

The Bean Canyon is carved out of volcanic tuff and pumice, creating almost sheer walls in the canyon.  There was a small stream that flows through it providing water for the village.  It is off the beaten path so the number of visitors was low.

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Along the base of the cliffs, dwellings were carved out and houses were built using the cliffs as a wall. 

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Footholds were carved into the cliffs to climb out of the canyon.  Up the sheer rock they went.  Quite often it was from a rooftop.

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In some instances, a small portion would be constructed to show people what it looked like when the dwellings were inhabited.  Adobe blocks were made and used to build the walls, trees were cut for floors/roofs and covered with mud.  Up the cliff they would build, sometimes three, four stories or more. 

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Walls that were still standing were stabilized and held in place to preserve what little bit was left. 

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On the upper part of the cliff in a cave they built and over look which contained a Kiva, a ceremonial room.  There were no doors, only entry through the roof via the ladder.  Here were the drums, the pipes and other paraphernalia used for their various celebrations. 

Their culture is based somewhat on the present day Pueblo Indians, which they feel were their  ancestors. 

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Caves were dug into the cliffs behind the rooms.  The round holes in the rock were sockets fro holding the vigas after the walls were built.  Average height for these people was about five feet.  Most ceilings were just over six feet.

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Down in the canyon bottom they built.  South facing to catch the sun.  Water near by to water their crops of beans, corn and squash.  They were farmers, not hunter gathers. 

The canyon walls reveal the various layers of eruption from the volcano over the eons. 


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