Discover Strength & Imagination of the Ancient World
In southwest Colorado, there’s a location that quite literally boggles the mind. In fact, if you’ve ever wanted to don a fedora in order to live the exciting life of Indiana Jones, this is the one place on Earth you must visit. Why? Because here lies the highest known number of archaeological sites in the entire United States. This impressive National Monument is The Canyons of the Ancients, and when you take your first step onto the grounds, you will immediately feel as if you’ve been transported back to one of the most thrilling worlds that ever existed.
Art, ancient artifacts, multi-room homes and towers – everywhere you look, you see something magnificent. Scattered over approximately 176,000 acres, this very real adventure allows you to bear witness to more than 6,300 ancient sites. The remnants actually draw you in and offer you and yours a bird’s eye view of the native residents: From shrines to sweat lodges; from their agricultural ways to petroglyphs that are as beautiful as Claude Monet’s many ‘flowery’ gifts.
Designated a National Monument in 2000, The Canyons of the Ancients offers great hiking trails that allow you to view unforgettable scenery, but the historical highlights are what will really take your breath away. With too many to name, the best place to begin is at the Visitor Center and Museum. There, you and your group can not only get information on the area, a map, as well as data on weather conditions, but you can also tour the museum. This is actually the first “do not miss” site, because of the interactive exhibits, research library, and more.
You can then be transported back in time at other “must see” locations that include, most notably, the native community of the Northern Ancestral Pueblo people (AKA: Anasazis) who settled in the area as early as 1500 B.C.
Most popular site is the Lowry Pueblo, which is a perfectly preserved dwelling that houses eight different kivas – walled rooms used by Puebloans for religious rituals and political meetings. Visiting the Great Kiva is also something you do not want to miss. This is an underground kiva constructed around 1100. About a decade later, the ancient residents built another kiva on top of the original. Today, however, it has been stabilized for visitors and historians so they can discover the significant “clues” residents left behind to tell their tale.
Painted Hand Pueblo boasts rooms built into the side of the mountain and a small tower that is actually decorated with a nearly 1,000-year-old handprint. And the Sand Canyon Pueblo is absolutely huge. With 420 different rooms, 100 kivas, and 14 towers built between 1200 and 1300, this ancient village is glorious.
Make sure if you’re taking this trip into the past, to stop by a nearby monument that is unmatched when it comes to history. The Hovenweep National Monument takes more than one day to explore, seeing as that it’s the spot of six different ancient villages from the Pueblo period, built in the mid-13th century.
2,500 people once lived in Hovenweep and the structures left behind are no less than magical: the multi-storied towers that perch on canyon rims and balance on boulders show the skill and strength this culture possessed. Over 10,000 years ago, nomadic Paleoindians were the first to visit here in order to hunt game. But by A.D. 900, humans settled in Hovenweep year-round, using the rich earth of the mesa top to plant and harvest crops.
The Puebloans were seen as a farming culture that occupied the infamous Four Corners area. Using farming systems much like present-day, they built terraces on hillsides, formed catch basins to keep any and all storm run-off, and built check dams to keep the rich topsoil intact. Included in the variety of architectural sites are the storage granaries under the canyon rims that protected their harvests.
The careful construction and attention to detail these residents exhibited have produced many theories over the years. Only some “mysteries” have been revealed, thus far, but there’s so much more to learn. Such as, some believe those striking towers could’ve had a number of uses – from being celestial observatories to defensive structures – leaving archaeologists even more excited to continue their work and hope they can discover the ultimate “key” that would prove everything about this culture’s way of life.
Truth be told, the enchanting past of the Ancients is still mind-boggling. And by visiting both The Canyons of the Ancients, as well as Hovenweep, you can be part of a glorious, mystical world that would make even Indiana Jones jealous.
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For more information about this, and other, National Monuments, visit: https://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/colorado/canyons-of-the-ancients
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