Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Chimney Rock National Monument

As I had written in a previous posting, we had seen the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde and were ready to see something different regarding the Ancient Puebloans.  We found that at Chimney Rock, which was declared a national monument in 2012 by President Obama.  Chimney Rock is in the background of the picture, Companion Rock in the foreground.
For a thousand years the land beneath these two spires was the home to many people, and in more recent years, one of the most intriguing archeological sites in the Four Corners area.   Architecture of the buildings here, as well as pottery and other artifacts, tell a story of the people who once lived here.  We took a guided tour on the two trails here which showed their pit and pueblo houses, as well as their ceremonial buildings, better known as kivas.  Pictured below is one of the pit houses constructed around 1078.  It was excavated and studied in 1972.  For your enlightenment, dendrochronolgy (study of tree rings) makes it possible for archeologists to do the dating of ancient housing.  They take posts of the homes and check their tree rings against those of other trees in the area.   It did pay for us to take a guided tour- we learned so much!
The house pictured above was made of sandstone and adobe mud, the side walls and roof of sticks and mortar.  On the far wall notice the ventilation shaft, which fed air into the home for fire and for people to breathe.  We saw another restored pit house on the trail, which had three additional rooms.  The artifacts found in them indicated they were used as work rooms for tool storage, as well as storing and grinding corn.
Also at that pit house was a recipe for cornbread which these ancient people ate.  I found it a bit strange, but maybe I should try the recipe!   Boiling water was added to blue cornmeal and juniper ash, this was made into a loaf and baked.  I sure wonder what juniper ash adds to the taste of that cornbread.

Our guide Ernie pointed out many plants along the trail which were useful to the ancient people for construction, food and weapons.  Pictured above is the cord they made out of the yucca plant.
The second trail we took was the Great House Trail, which took us 200 feet up higher than the pit houses.  Here there were once 2 kivas and about 40 rooms, all under one big roof.  It was built by a different group of puebloans than those who lived in the pit houses below, evidenced by the different types of construction of the buildings in both areas.   The upper village  is near the two spires (seen in the picture at the beginning of this posting).   Anthropologists can only speculate regarding the mysteries of Chimney Rock- why two different tribes lived here together over 100 years, and was there a significance for them with the two spires.  What is known is that the sun can be seen rising between Chimney Rock and Companion Rock 5 days before the equinoxes in March and September.  The Native Americans did use the sun and moon settings for help in determining times of the year to harvest and plant their crops, as well as to plan annual festivals.  Also twin war gods are revered in puebloan mythology. 

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