Come and Gone

In a corner of northeastern New Mexico, thousand-year-old shards of pottery are scattered in the dust between sage and piñon. Protected by law, but there for the seeing if you’re lucky.

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Pueblo Bonito

The sweep of desert in Chaco Canyon looks abandoned, almost uninhabitable, but people have lived here for twelve thousand years. Archeologists have found fire rings, tools, implements, bones left by Clovis-era big game hunters, and early and late Basketmakers.

Puebloan ancestors — dubbed by Utes and Navajo as Anasazi, or “enemy ancient ones,” — built moon-shaped compounds, complete with underground kivas, the earliest around 500 B.C. After the trees were cut down, they hauled in logs from hundreds of miles away. A lively trade in turquoise sprang up. Huge buildings were constructed.

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11th-century pictograph. Believed to represent a supernovae visible in 1054 AD. The hand print signifies a sacred image. Swallow nests on guard

The ancient Puebloans probably lived in Chaco Canyon for two or three times as long as the United States has been in existence. They aligned buildings with solar and lunar cycles, engineered irrigation systems, decorated pottery with geometric designs.

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Penasco Blanco. Kivas at this site date to around 550 A.D. A great house was constructed around 950 A.D., 160 rooms and three stories tall. Additions in five distinct stages show the evolution of building techniques.

Eventually the population dwindled, probably because of drought, or perhaps war, or some other calamity we may never know about. What happened is the subject of fierce debate. In any event, the last of the great Puebloan houses were sealed up and abandoned around 1400 A.D.

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Penasco Blanco. Archeologists have found evidence of an irrigation system.

Utes, Shoshone moved in, followed by Apache and Navajo. Today the modern Navajo Nation is just west.

I found one of those gray and white pottery shards. Picked it up. Thought about slipping it in my pocket. Put it back.

What good would it do me, collecting dust on a shelf? It was a place holder, a marker to  remind me and whoever finds it next, that we aren’t here for long. Our cleverness is a marvel, but weather, landscape, time are still our hosts.

For more on this week’s WordPress Photo challenge: Time

Theories on what happened to the ancient Puebloans. Information on Chaco Canyon National Historic Park, and the hike to Penasco Blanco.

35 comments

  • Great pictures – my guess would be drought forced the people to move. Good for you not picking up the shard! I wish I could convince my husband not to pick up rocks from all over the place. Just one more thing to dust!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do have a few rocks lying around here, but no illegal pottery shards. You are hereby absolved from dusting rocks, forever and ever. Cheers —

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  • Artifacts: pick them up or leave them there? I know the PC answer, but it is so hard to leave them there! Even though in the end they just take up space in your house, and you likely forget where they even came from. What I have done for a while now is to share them with the rest of the group I am with, and then stash them in a safe hiding spot nearby. Then if anyone from the group ever returns they can find it again, and share with their companions on that future trip.
    I especially like this when I find something in a spot where the artifact will be washed away and gone forever come the next flood. A couple years back I found the most perfect black obsidian bird point arrowhead of my life. Just laying in plain sight on a sandy Owyhee River beach, below a bunch of petroglyphs. Next flood it would have been gone most likely. But now it lies tucked in a crevice in nearby boulder, safe til one of us in the group pulls it out once again. Or maybe it sits there a hundred or a thousand years until a great flood takes it boulder and all to the bottom of the river.

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    • Swept away or there for a hundred thousand years, finding old, old tools makes everything slow down for a bit. Life kind of hinges on those moments. Did you take a photo of your arrowhead?

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  • Great story and photos. I never made it to Chaco Canyon but climbed those ladders at Bandolier. I am fascinated, beyond belief, at how old those structures are, how long the pictographs have endured the test of time. Great post!

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  • I must say Julia your photographs are first rate my friend. Thanks for introducing me to Chaco Canyon. I’d never heard of the area. But what a unique, beautiful place. What it must have taken to construct something like that. Wow. What a marvel and a gift to see this personally. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • These are great pieces of photography. And I love the history that came with them too. Thanks to the internet I can admire New Mexico from Kenya thanks to this! 🙂

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      • I loved the area where the painter Georgia O’Keefe had her ranch-home, Ghost Ranch. Inspiring. We don’t have Navajo Indian and Spanish cultural influences in Canada. We just go to Quebec for the closest influence that’s not Anglo nor aboriginal.

        Liked by 1 person

  • so you’re gonna go back … I/we yoosta go TO and just as often THRU that area somewhat frequently. and like you’ve presented, there’s a vibe beyond words, beyond description.

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    • not entirely related to your subject … yoove seen “my” inuk-thingies. i wander (without aim, as compared to aimlessy wandering) when i can, and have come across “modern day” structures, modern-day mini-Mesa-Verdes, cairns (blame a lot of those on “sheep-herders”), once i stumbled upon a really nice well-constructed chest-high wall under an over-hang. someone had spent a bunch of time, scoured a lot of rectangular rocks, way off any beaten path. however, my brother and i found a “prayer” (?) — medicine (??) wheel, maybe 20′ across — modern-made, of course. he got married there on a summer solstice a few years back. quite a hike for the wedding party to go to/from.

      Liked by 1 person

  • I have always found this subject fascinating. Areas that were once a vibrant community and now gone. We have so abused this world we live on – all of us. The buying and use of destructive but seemingly convenient “things” we must have. You and I are about the same age. I know my children didn’t have the childhood I had and my kids fear even allowing their children to play outside with no guards. People today, in their stupidity don’t really understand, someday America, or other countries and cities, will also become shards to be picked up and studied. To think we need another planet to live on because greed sucked this one dry creates a feeling of such loss.

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    • Although it isn’t much comfort, I have come around to seeing us, and all of our flaws, as part of the whole picture. We think of ourselves as self-willed and capable of self-discipline, but in fact are mostly driven by parts of our brains we don’t have much access to. Probably very good news for cockroaches and ants in the long run, because they can survive almost anything.

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      • This is the reason I started studying Nichiren Buddhism because you are right, most people’s lives are dictated by something in the environment and unfortunately most of the times life just slaps them around. The answer is to pray – when needed – for something outside themselves to fix their problems never understanding that the effects they get in their life are caused by things they have done earlier in their life. But most people don’t want to be responsible for their life and it boils down to them saying that it must be what God wants. It is his plan for them. I hope I’m not stepping on any toes. Everyone has the right to believe what they want, but for the most part they believe what they were told that someone else told them. The verse in the Bible that says,”You reap what you sow” is glossed over by most people. In Buddhism it is called The Law of Cause and Effect. It is the same thing – except that Buddhism takes it very seriously. I want to give you an example:

        My mother had a stroke 2 months ago. My one sister, who is very vocal about being a Christian, as been flipping out because she doesn’t know what is going to happen when my mother has to leave the nursing home July 27th. Her insurance runs out. She is making good progress but still doesn’t have enough control on her right side. But my sister is going, “What if she’s not ready? What if you can’t be there every day, what if…what if….. I said to her, “Have you prayed for her?” “Yes” “Then why are you doubting? Where is your faith? If you pray expecting a negative ending, what good is that?’ My mother is also Buddhist – for 26 years. She knows – When you pray, you pray with the outcome already there. ay with confidence. I said, “Ask mom about how she feels about what is going with her. Is she afraid, or does she have confidence that it will all work out exactly the she needs it to?” Most people aren’t capable of being consistent about what they want to change, but you can do nothing if you doubt yourself. There are people who think they can and people who think they can’t, and they are both right. So mom says, “I WILL walk again. I WILL drive a car again. I WILL resume my life” When you make the cause for success you will have success. Nothing else gave it to you, or blessed you with it. It is not a part of a supreme being’s plan for you. The mind is very powerful and we use so little of it. It is also why I know I will finish my book and the things that need to happen will happen, because I will make it happen.

        We ARE all part of the big picture. Everything is connected. But most people are missing HOW to be self-disciplned. With all flaws people often give in and say, “It’s just the way I am” because to change takes a lot of work and they don’t know how to do it. As I develop the power I know I have over myself – my flaws – I win and I’ll lose and I start again and I’ll learn. Life is wonderfully interesting. We do have access to those parts of our brain but you have to step out of the box. Those parts you don’t think you have control over is your nature – what you think, do and say, the things you do, and keep doing even though you don’t want to. I love to learn about life and I teach it every day, but it’s amazing, the ones who complain the most are the ones who refuse to hear anything other than their own voice, complaining about something. I hope I haven’t confused you or got too heavy. I have a tendency to do that.

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        • I agree about self-discipline, the value of taking risks, learning from mistakes and that most of us are capable of much more than we believe we are.

          People and the world surprise me all the time, so I will not predict what is coming down the pike. For us as a species, the trend seems to be continued binging on resources in a way that could threaten our existence. We are only the latest version of many prior, now-extinct homo-whatevers, however. If we go extinct, we’ll be a blip in cosmic history. Doesn’t excuse us from individual responsibility in our own lives, but putting us in perspective cheers me.

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        • I’ve been traveling and away from my computer. I was with my son yesterday and we were having your exact words. So I couldn’t say it any better. Most people don’t think for themselves. they believe what they are told as long as it exempts them from having to take responsibility for their lives. We are much older than we think but we sure are destroying ourselves pretty fast. It is so disheartening to watch.

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