Apr 17 - Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

  • Explored two Pueblos (villages) in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
  • Toad Miles Today: 70
  • Total Toad Miles Spring12:  520
  • Tonight's camp: Sundance RV Park in Cortez
  • Weather: morning low: 33  afternoon high: 78, mostly sunny and warm
  • Notables: 1. I don't get the same feeling exploring ruins that have been extensively reconstructed for tourists that I get from the original, undisturbed article.  2. Like folks in all cultures, most of us are just trying to get through the day while striving for as much happiness as we can find. 3. A picnic lunch on a flat rock at Lowry Pueblo, listening to nature and pondering this native culture.
  • Link to photo album for today.

West of Cortez is a large area of public land known as Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Established in 2000 by Presidential Proclamation, the Monument exists to preserve more than 6,000 archeological sites of the early Puebloan culture.

At about the same time as the Mesa Verde cliff dwellers, there were thousands more Ancient Puebloans living in the valleys and canyons in the surrounding area. The ruins of their dwellings are scattered all over the 4 Corners area, but a particularily large number of them are located in the 164,000 acre Monument.

Some of the sites are the remains of pueblos... villages... where a group of families, perhaps as many as 40 or more, would live together in one place. The structure would be an interconnected set of rooms, kivas, and plazas where the inhabitants worked, lived, and celebrated together. Each family, it is presumed, had it's own room for sleeping... a more or less private space. But most of life was lived with the community.

We visited Lowry Pueblo, about 20 miles northwest of Cortez, the last few miles of which were gravel and dirt road. We were the only people there... at least in our current space/time dimension. It's a 1000 year old ruin of a 40 room pueblo, named after George Lowry, an early 20th century homesteader in the area. Extensively excavated in the 1930s by Dr. Paul Martin of the Chicago Field Museum, it has also been extensively rebuilt and stabilized in 1965. A portion of the pueblo has a protective roof installed.

From Wikipedia...
The Lowry Pueblo National Historic Landmark consists of 8 kivas, a great (community) kiva and 40 rooms built as high as three stories. The underground great kiva was built about AD 1103 and had murals painted over about 5 layers of plaster. About 1110 another kiva was built on top of the original kiva. Based upon the size of the kiva it's thought that the Lowry Pueblo may have been a local center for religious gatherings and celebration.

After exploring the pueblo and the grounds, we utilized a flat rock, located a respectable distance from the pueblo, to enjoy a picnic lunch, to listen to nature, and to think about those early folks. I think, like most of us, they were just doing their best to get through the day... and to do so with a measure of pleasure and happiness.

We then headed back over to the Anasazi Heritage Center and Visitor Center for the National Monument. When we were there the other day it was getting late and we didn't tour the hill-top pueblo just above the Visitor Center. Today we had time.

Escalante Pueblo was visited by the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition in 1776, and thus so named. More typical of ruins from that time, it's basically an outline of low walls and footings exposed by the removal of the collapsed masonry from above.

Most surprising to me, now that I've learned and understand so much more than I knew before about this culture, is it's scale... the geographic area, the number of people, the huge number of remaining sites... it really was a hot-spot of civilization at a very early time in the history of these lands.

Slightly Better than Most