Friday, September 30, 2011

Indian Ruins of Northern Arizona

Welcome to some of the various Indian ruins of northern Arizona!  With me, as a very special guest, is a beautiful lady known as Gram.  Together, we rode many miles over martian terrain, visiting several locations in northern Arizona which had the remains of peoples long since gone.

If you look just over Gram's arm, you can see a cliff in the rock face behind us.  And under that cliff there are a few remaining houses nestled into the eroded gap between rock layers.  These were just one of the many types of dwellings of a group of Native Americans we refer to today as the Sinagua, and this particular location is Walnut Canyon National Monument.

When Spanish explorers had first traversed the lands of Northern Arizona, they found a tall mountain range, which is located to the west of the present city of Flagstaff.  The explorers were amazed that there were no perennial rivers flowing from such tall peaks, and so they called the mountain range the "Sierra Sin Agua."  In Spanish, "sin" means without, and "agua" is water.  An archaeologist by the name of Harold Colton would much later grasp that label as a namesake for the pre-Columbian peoples who had inhabited Northern Arizona, calling them the Sinagua.  For sure, getting water was at times a struggle for these people!

Below you can see the remains of walls which once someone called home.  The rock formation is all limestone in the area of these cliff dwellings.  However, the middle layer where the homes actually are is a slightly different composition, one which is easier to carve out by both man and the elements.

Here you can see what the outside wall of a dwelling would look like fully intact.  The entrance was rather small, and above the entrance an even smaller hole is in the wall.  This small hole was, in effect, the chimney for their cooking and heating fires.  Natural convection would create an updraft, bringing fresh air into the dwelling, while pushing the smoke up and out of the home.

There is evidence that the Sinagua planted their crops on the mesa above their homes.  However, for water, they had to climb all the way down to the bottom of the canyon.  Needless to say, they must have been excellent climbers!  Their only break from the labor of getting water down below would come during winter, where snow deposits could be used instead.

After Walnut Canyon, Gram and I headed to a place called Sunset Crater, and on to Wupatki National Monument.  But we did stop on the way to admire this beautiful field of flowers!

This is one huge lava flow we passed by.  It was great, because I was able to smooth off the rough spots on my feet just by walking on the pumice!

Now, into Wupatki National Monument, where we found multiple Native American dwellings, including this impressive house you could see for miles!  It is called Wukoki.

Here is a closer view.  Pretty reddish orange rocks really stood out against the advancing storm clouds.

It looks like a castle from this angle!

Remember the small window in the photo above?   Well, this is the view from inside that window!  This is one of the few places you can step inside and get a feel for the space where these people lived.  Do you see any water around?  Me neither!  In this settlement, it was several miles to the nearest reliable water source.

It must have taken a long time to collect all of those rocks.  You can do a lot when you don't have TV!

Here is another set of ruins known as Lomaki.  It is suspected that the people abandoned living here sometime around 1100 AD.

These ruins were situated near a relatively small canyon.  They would grow crops in the canyon, relying on the infrequent rain water to collect in the canyons, and carry with it nutrients to help their crops grow.  However, too much water too quickly could put their crops, and their lives at risk.

It's hard to imagine that someone would just decide to plant themselves here, in the middle of unforgiving country.

But they sure built what appeared to be pretty nice houses!

And on to our final set of ruins, known as Tuzigoot.  Have you noticed that these ruins tend to have fun names?  Tuzigoot.  Wapatki.  Wukoki.  :-)  Anyway, you can see that this settlement behind me was built on a hill.  A hill would offer strategic advantages during battles, safety from flooding of the creek which was near this settlement, and, of course, a nice view.  Some things don't change.  :-)

Here I am with my beautiful travel partner.  Notice the difference in the wall structure?  Sure, it's basically the same, but the rocks here are different color from the other settlements, and different shapes.  Tuzigoot is south of Flagstaff near Sedona, so it was entirely different, and probably a lot easier living there.

That easy living probably helps to explain how big Tuzigoot was, having around 77 rooms.  Tuzigoot was also occupied longer, up until around the 1400's.

While the walls were rock, often covered with a plaster originally, the roof structure was made primarily of wood, like what you see here.  Opposite the roof is, of course, the floor, which was mainly unremarkable except for the fact that if these people had a child die young, such as an infant, they would bury the child in the floor of their home with the hopes that the spirit of that child would merge into the next child born there.  I was very careful where I stepped!

And what trip to Native American ruins would be complete without talking about maize?  ;-)  Below you can see the stone tools which the Sinagua people would have employed in grinding the maize into meal.  I know it may sound corny, but that was a mainstay of their diet!  They planted maize and other crops like squash and beans in the lands surrounding the settlement.  That's it for me, so I'll see you on my next adventure!