Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wupatki National Monument

Wupatki National Monument consists of several pueblos that may be viewed on a self guided tour. Wupaki National Monument is part of a 35 mile park loop, which also has Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument as part of the combined park system.  The entrance to this park is approximately 13 miles north of Flagstaff off of Highway 89. We did the volcano lava field hikes a few days earlier and spent several hours touring that part of the park.  We returned on a separate day to tour the pueblos.  We spent 4 hours exploring the pueblos and visitor center.  Although we took our time and were satisfied with the amount of hiking and sightseeing we did, we could have easily spent another hour or two!  
We started our exploration at the Wukoki pueblo. Wukoki means big house.  It is my favorite!  It sits high up on a beautiful red rock mound with a great view across the landscape.  It is estimated to have housed 2-3 families.  Wukoki is believed to be from the Kayenta Anasazi culture and occupied from 1120-1210 A.D.  
This room is entered through the short narrow doorway on the right and the even smaller doorway goes into the tall tower.
This rock surface is believed to have originally served as a patio outside the Wukoki pueblo.  It makes a great patio with a wonderful view today!  It would have been an area for cooking and a place for the children to play.  
This is Wupatki pueblo.  It is a huge, but you nearly have to walk right up on it before you see it, as it sits down in a valley and blends in with its surroundings!
Here is a representation of what it may have looked like.
Wupatki is a whole complex consisting of 100 rooms, a tower, a community room, and a ceremonial ball court! At one time this area was thought to be a thriving community of several thousand!  The low circular structure to the forefront is a community gathering area for ceremonies.  The circular structure in the background is a ball court.
Here is a closer look at the open-air community room. Excavators didn't find any evidence that it was ever closed in with a floor, roof, or walls like a ceremonial kiva would have been.  Wupatki was an important center for trade based on items found. Copper bells from Mexico, shell beads, and the remains of more than 40 Macaws from Mesoamerica were found.  Tribal groups, both Puebloan and non-Puebloan, gathered at Wupatki.     
This is the ball court.  It may have had multiple functions.  It may have been a place for ceremonial functions, competitive games, and use as a water reservoir.  
It is difficult to define a cultural identity for Wupatki Pueblo, as it has a blend of Kayenta and Sinagua architecture.  More than 100 pottery types have been found here.
Here is a cute little resident!  He looked a bit bigger and scarier as he crossed the sidewalk in front of us!
This rock structure surrounds a small natural crevice into a cave and is called a blow hole.  When the barometric pressure of the outside air is lower than in the cave, an air current blows out of the cave! When the outside barometric pressure is higher than in the cave, the air current blows into the cave!
Here is a perfect example of the strength of the air current!!!  The air coming from the cave was fresh smelling and had a frigid temperature as good as any air conditioning! Roy and I speculated on how the natives might have been able to build a trough to channel the cold air up into the pueblo, but archaeologists haven't found any evidence of structures in relationship to the blow hole. The cave has never been explored!  These blow holes are said to exist in other locations within the desert! That's an impressive natural phenomenon!
This room was used as a large trash bin.  Archaeologists found it quite full and learned a lot from the contents.
Just like today there was a need for a community dump. This dark brown mound behind the pueblo covers the community refuse.  It is referred to as a midden.  It has only been excavated enough to know its purpose. Excavation is costly and it is looked upon as a last resort for preservation. Excavations are only implemented, if the area cannot be preserved in place.
Other people have come and gone since the original occupants. During the late 1800s, Basque sheepherders stayed here briefly.  In the 1930s a couple of the rooms were reconstructed to house park rangers! The 4 people living here didn't have electricity or running water.  They used propane to cook and had a gas refrigerator.  The government charged them $10 a month for rent!
One more look!  I love the red rock masonry!

Here are items from Wupatki.
Fine cotton textiles and abundant tools suggest weaving was an important and highly developed skill at Wupatki.
The Citadel pueblo is located further along the park loop away from Wupatki.  It fills the top of a mesa!  It is unknown whether the Wupatki and Citadel communities were autonomous, cooperatives, or competitors.
There is a natural rock foundation that the pueblo is built on.  That seems to be the standard practice.
This is a giant sinkhole next to the mesa the Citadel is built on.  The earth collapses as limestone erodes away below.  Nothing was stated as to whether it collapsed while the Citadel was occupied, but wouldn't that have been scary to witness!  This sinkhole does not to hold water.
Here is a little perspective from the top!
This is Roy and me making some tall shadow art across the Citadel.  I love the view!
There was one last pueblo sitting off to itself called Lomaki, which means the beautiful house.  It beckoned us to hike a bit more, but it was after hours and our bodies were telling us they'd done enough, so the mystery of Lomaki will remain unknown!  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Wupatki and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments

Wupatki (Pueblo) and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments are located within a 35 mile loop and are both accessible for one entrance fee.  The visitor center for Sunset Crater Volcano is located 15 miles from Flagstaff on Highway 89 north.  The Wupatki Pueblo is 26 miles through the beautiful Painted Desert park loop.  There are other pueblos located along the park loop for touring.  
One of the first sights upon entering the park are the peaks of the San Francisco Mountains.  They rise to Arizona's highest point of 12,633 feet.  These peaks make up what is referred to as a stratovolcano.  A stratovolcano, also know as a composite volcano, is a conical volcano built up by layers of hardened lava.
This is the first look at Sunset Crater.  Sunset Crater is a geological infant having erupted less than 1,000 years ago.  It is is estimated that a roaring fountain of lava rose 850 feet in the air, which is nearly as high as this 1,000 foot high cinder cone!  
The eruption of area volcanoes is what led to the local natives leaving the area to move further south. The park provides a nice half mile loop trail through this lava field.  This is located right across the road from the Lenox Crater trail.
This is the half mile walk up to the top of Lenox Crater.  The trail up to Sunset Crater has been closed since the 1970s to help preserve it.
Here's our first view of the top!
Wow!  It was worth the hike!  Check out the cloud appearing to steam out of the distant crater!
This is an interesting tree trunk.  It seems to be riddled with what I'm guessing are woodpecker holes.
This is the view heading back down the trail.  The walk was oh so much more enjoyable!
There is a parking lot near the base of Sunset Crater and a nice paved path out through this field of volcanic ash and lava flows.  The flowers that seem to thrive in the ash are beautiful.  The Fall blooming yellow Rabbitbush can be seen everywhere.  It must particularly thrive in this environment.
The red flower stalks seen scattered about are Penstemons.
This bush is called Apache Plume.  It typically blooms from June through August and then goes to seed with these beautiful pink plumes.  The plumes will be carried by the wind when the time is right. I found it to be very attractive, possibly more so with its plumes than when in full bloom with its white flowers.
The red ash is from iron oxide.
This is a lava flow that has fallen in on itself.
The cinder cone to the left is Sunset Crater.
This is looking the opposite direction from Sunset Crater.  The low rounded peak to the left is Elden Mountain near Flagstaff and the two peaks straight ahead are the San Francisco Mountain peaks.  All the hills and mountains  you see are volcanoes and make up part of a 2,200 square mile area called the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
This little lizard, who was only about two inches long, ran out on the sidewalk and seemed to  dance about as if to get our attention and detain us awhile!  He seemed to enjoy Roy giving him some scratching under his chin, but wasn't interested in being picked up. He probably gets a bit lonely out on the lava field.
The park loop to the Wupatki pueblo goes through miles of beautiful painted desert with a changing landscape of colors!
Isn't this beautiful in its pure simple colors!  We decided to leave the pueblos for another days hike, but I found this area haunting me for days.  I wasn't sure why.  I later decided that seeing the volcano fields and then this wide open pristine desert seemed to show the earth in such a natural state, as if untouched by humans!  While the red earth pueblos blend with nature as much as is possible for a man made thing, they still seemed to be an intrusion on what seemed to be the earth existing in a natural state of being.  It's quite an amazing feeling!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Elden Pueblo, Flagstaff, AZ

The Elden Pueblo is located on Highway 89 on the northern edge of Flagstaff.  It is a half mile self guided walking tour that is well worth the visit!  There are several foundations of pueblo structures and an informative pamphlet telling you about them.  Admission is free!
This is a sketch of how the pueblos would have looked.  Entry into the stone pueblos was through the stick, grass, and mud roofs with the exception of some doorways on the upper level.  Some doorways were found on the lower level, but they had been rocked in as part of the wall.  It appears that the inhabitants discovered first floor doorways were a bad idea and progressed to entrances through the rooftops accessible only by ladders!  It didn't say, but I wonder if the exterior ladder was pulled onto the roofs at night!  
Elden Pueblo is a prehistoric Native American village consisting of about 70 rooms.  At its peak inhabitation approximately 300 Sinagua (Sin ah wa) Indians were thought to inhabit the village.  The village was occupied from A.D. 1070 to 1275, which sounded like dinosaur days to us, but is actually only around a 1,000 years ago!  Elden Pueblo is thought to have been part of a major trading system. Various trade items such as Macaw skeletons from Mexico, as well as, shell jewelry from the coast of California have been found throughout the site.  It is recognized by the Hopi (Hope ee) Indians as an ancestral village known as Pasiovi, "the place of coming together".  Several modern Hopi clans trace their ancestry to immigrants from the Sinagua culture.  This site today is an active archaeological dig.

This is the community room within the structure.  I didn't notice it when we were at the site, but later saw in this picture the large smooth stones along the back of the bench that would have served as backrests.  How cool is that!  Looking at the backrest stones I can almost imagine the people sitting side by side around the room!
The main pueblo is so long it can't be captured in one picture.  This is the far right end of the structure.  Note that all the stones used in the exterior wall are large stones.  They are used for load bearing walls.  Roy noticed that the edges of the rocks had been made flat. That seems like it would have been a lot of additional work and we're not sure what the advantage would be to making them smooth over leaving them with their natural shape.
Note the smaller rocks intermingled with the larger rocks for interior walls.  All the walls would be smoothed over with mud.
Just as people do today, the Sinagua remodeled their homes!  Note the large stones used in the wall on the left and the mixed large and small stone wall on the right.  Archaeologists can detect remodeling through the large stoned exterior walls being used as part of an interior room.  An explanation wasn't given for the area of raised ground lined with rocks within this structure.  I'm guessing it served as a raised seating and sleeping area.
This might take you a minute to see the significance of.  See the large terraced rocks to the front of the picture in what looks like a natural water run-off?  Now look at the long lines of rocks out in the grass that also span a natural wallow where water would run downhill during a rainstorm.  This is an early form of terrace farming meant to collect natural water run-off in what is typically a dry climate. The name Sinagua given to the natives means without water.  The natives became adept at maximizing the water available to them.  Ancient technology is so amazing in its simplicity by today's standards and yet so advanced for the times!
Here is another piece of technology!  It's thought to be for grinding ax heads, as the archaeologist who found this stone also found 5 ax heads perfectly matching the grooves in this stone.  Was this early mass production?
The two curved wooden tools on the tree stump are called atalatals,or spear throwers.  Roy and I got a chance to try our ability to throw arrows with the atalatals!
We had no idea how it was done until we later researched the technique.  The arrow sits in a groove at the front of the atalatal and has a small pick at the other end that secures the back end of the arrow. Here is Roy showing pretty good form with his side stance and arm up.
The technique is to stand sideways, weight on the back foot, arm crooked, arrow straight, step forward with force keeping the arm crooked upward, and then flip the wrist forward as your arm comes downward at full extension.  The technique was equated to using the long handled tennis ball throwing devices for tossing a ball for a dog. Our first throws about ripped our arms off at the shoulder, but our next few throws were amazingly smooth and the arrows flew beyond the hay bales.  Keep in mind we didn't have the benefit of the instructions I just gave for how it's done.  Before we were done, Roy managed to plant an arrow in the hay bale right between the deer's ears, but over its head and mine lodged in the bale close to a hoof! We had hoped to practice more, but were ousted by a school field trip of rambunctious second graders!  We don't know if the arrows are typically left out for the public or if it was special because of the field trip, but we're going to make a return trip to hopefully get to launch a few more arrows now that we know the technique!
These were available to throw at targets, but we didn't get a chance to try our skill with them.  The Elden Pueblo site was an easy, relaxing, educational, and fun walk of no more than 30 minutes to an hour.  Be sure to take the time to check it our when you're in Flagstaff!