Saturday, January 10, 2015

Chaco Canyon


The Four Corners area of the US is loaded with ancient Indian mysteries.  Situated in the northwestern corner of New Mexico is Chaco Canyon one of the most extensive collections of ancient mysteries.  There was a variety in cultures that built there yet they are referred to as Anasazi Indians, a term meaning the “Ancient Ones.”  Not a tribe but a question mark and a label was hung on them for a reference point. 

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Wandering through the area, there is a variety of construction styles.  The keyholes of Mexico, Cliff dwellings, Pit Houses, fine masonry work with chinking and large hewn stone work.  The styles indicating different tribal work or cultures. 

One thing that remains the same, the answers are no clearer then they were decades ago when I first visited.  The scientists still speculate on what they have found, based on the neighboring Pueblo Indians.  Even within them are a large variety of people and cultures.  So one can be a scientist and speculate and put their opinion forth as fact. 

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I spent a week at Chaco over 30 years ago, pre digital and took hundreds of slides.  I have been scanning some of them and they bring sack moments from years past.  When I was there, an archeologist and some of his students were there excavating a set of pit houses.  I was able to visit with them and watch them work as they removed small pieces of various artifacts.  How they would remove parts from a fire pit to measure for dating.  The separation of various relics and how they recorded their finds.  They had traced this village of pit houses across the floor and about 600 years of evolution and their changes. 

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This small group of houses was contemporary with the larger nearby Pueblo Bonito.  One of the speculations was that the Indians that inhabited these little huts were slaves of the Indians that were in the larger pueblo.  In the middle ages slavery was not unusual.  Capture weaker people, get them to build the large castle/pyramid and be the servants.  A recorded history is not available so theories are put forth based on other observations.  Then Indian slavery messes with the myth of the noble Indian. 

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Scattered across the area are hundreds of little villages.  Some are excavated, most are rubble piles.  Late 1800’s-early 1900’s the Wetherill brothers came out here and scrounged the Indian ruins.  Digging out pots and other artifacts, sending them back east for sale.  The sale of these ancient pots financed their diggings in the Four Corners area and kind of left an ugly scar on many of the ruin sites.  Lots of what the brothers recovered ended up in Europe and there was not much cataloguing of what was shipped where and where it was found. 

Yet there were enough untouched ruin sites, reconstruction has been pretty accurate and the stabilization helps to preserve the ruins.

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The Kivas are as varied as the rest of the canyon.  During the solstice and equinox they resonate with the visitors who have mystical aspirations of the ancient tribes. 

When I visited, the Sun Dagger had not been discovered.  Today many of the ruins sites are now called observatories.  The measurement of time was used with markers, noting the suns passing.  How sophisticated were these Indians?

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The pictures are of organized rock piles.  In the day of occupation, the rocks were plastered.   Mud was applied to the walls, filling the chinks creating a well insulated dwelling.  The Kivas were decorated with sand paintings.  The archeologists found a Kiva with sand painting still on the walls.  With meticulous care, they peeled off 10 layers of different paintings covering a couple of centuries. 

A catch all category for the unknown is religious use.  And the kiva gets put into that category.  The items found in them become religious objects that were used in religious ceremonies.  It is interesting how things are labeled when they are not really sure.  It raises more questions and speculation.  Then that is the fun of the visit, then go to the museum of Anasazi history at the University.  Questions are cleared up and new ones arise. 

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The park service has changed their perception and scope over the years.  Things that were talked about years ago are now gone for they mess with the myth that has been created.  Answers to the questions will probably never be found.  A mystery that many will look at and speculate on.  There is some substance and there is fiction t ofit an agenda.  Separate out the reality form the illusion. 

One of the collest collections of ghost towns to wander through and ponder.

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