Welcome to the

Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

About Me

My photo
Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Friday, March 4, 2011

Getting History Mixed Up

Started out a little later today--8 am and it was a bit colder--34 degrees but once more had a marvelous day trip from Gallup north to Aztec and the Aztec Ruins National Monument. Here is the historical mix-up: pioneers who settled in the area were aware of the Coronado explorations here and so assumed that the stone ruins ,dating before that time and current with his passage, were the buildings of Aztecs from Mexico. Having made this erroneous assumption they named their town Aztec and so to this day the ruins bear its name.

In actuality, the magnificent relics were constructed by the Anasazi Indians who lived in the area during the 11th and 12th centuries. The West Wall of the building is as long as a football field and stood three stories high. "The ruins are the remains of an extended and planned community made of a variety of structures. There are several large, multi-story great houses, which were public buildings, many smaller residential pueblos, ceremonial kivas--the large round areas." ( taken from a Nat Pk Svc brochure).

The construction is very interesting and some cases unexplained since the meaning is unknown--for example, why is there a line of green stones halfway up some walls and also at the ground level? The roofs where they are still intact are original to the building!!! It can be seen that the walls were double and nicely mortared with even and evenly matched stones and the space between filled with irregular stones. Many of the rooms are now missing the roof and so the maze appears quite airy and light-filled, but when all the roofs were intact the only light came in through those small square openings in the upper corners--so it was pretty dim. Many of the rooms are quite small and the doors very low and narrow. Others are very large and were probably storage areas. Kivas exist throughout the community and one in particular is quite unusual in that it is composed of three concentric circles--the large kiva room in the middle and the outer two rings made of small rooms.

The whole compound surrounded a central plaza in which there was a huge kiva and then an even larger one, which is a reconstruction dating from the 1930's and built on the original excavated in the 1920's. Most of the work was done by the Museum of Natural History in NYC.

These people remained here for over 200 years but it appears that prolonged droughts eventually forced them to leave and move to the Rio Grande area where water was more plentiful and reliable. About 1200 years ago the civilization seems to have disappeared although these people are considered the ancestors of the present day Pueblo Indians: Zunis, Hopis, Hualapai, Havasupai, etc. All but the Navajo---who are not Pueblo! As a matter of fact the word Anasazi is a Navajo word and usually is stated to mean the ancient ones, however, my book on The Long Walk translates it as the ancient enemies. At any rate, though Canyon de Chelly has remnants of Anasazi cliff dwellings the Navajo would have nothing to do with the tools or artifacts found there.

Which brings me to Chris Pinto, the Navajo rock artist,we met yesterday at the Canyon. His family has lived here for 300 years. He told us that there is a trail into the floor of the Canyon and that the river we see is the road--it is quite muddy and a four wheel drive vehicle is needed. It is the only way into the heart of the canyon to the various ranches--sheep are raised along with corn and peach and apricot trees. There is no electricity or water so when you go in you might as well stay for awhile. His mother lives over near the red butte in the distance and is a weaver of the traditional Navajo rugs, his only sibling, a sister works in leather and does bead work ( she lives in Huntington Beach, Ca), his Dad is a silversmith and he paints on rocks that he finds --he told me the rock tells him what is to be painted on it. He goes to Ca on Amtrak from Gallup and that's where his surfboard is! LOL I asked which he liked better and he said both--he can ride horses on the butte and hunt rabbit but can surf etc in Ca. He has been an artist since his teacher in the first grade saw his creativity when she gave her students each a hunk of clay and said make something. He never had any formal training until many years later when he went to study at the Pasadena School of Art. When he saw my interest in his work he showed me how he used the rock characteristics as well as paint to create the scene. He pointed to the canyon and asked if I saw the canyon lacquer--the dark lines made by the water marks and then he showed the various natural colors in the stone around which he had painted. He also said he likes to paint as he displays his wares so that people know they weren't made in China. I think I fell in love with him then! I also felt honored that he took time to explain his work and its meanings. I could have spent the day with him.

The Hubbell Trading Post was also interesting--I forget all the details of Hubbells background except his dad was from Ct and went to Mexico where he met and married a girl of a prominent Spanish family. This Hubbell and the Hubble of telescope fame are related. At any rate, this guy came to NM, learned Navajo and became a trader with them. He allowed artists, both local and transient, to stay at his home while they worked--his only charge was the piece of his choice of their work. This tradition continues today at the Post which is now a National Park. He established 35 posts on the Navajo nation before he was done.

At any rate, today after 287 miles and dinner at Applebee's we were back to our room at 5. The walk around the ruins was exhilarating since the wind was strong and brisk. On the way home we had to dodge tumbleweeds as large as tires and the dust was blown so much that the distance was totally obscured. All in all, another fabulous day. Tomorrow, Zuni Pueblo and then we leave Gallup in our rear view mirror--I hate leaving-- and move on into Arizona to stay for a bit.

Until then, good night!

No comments:

Post a Comment