Tag Archive | petroglyph

SW National Parks Trip: Chetro Ketl and the Petroglyphs

In my last post, I described our visit to the Hungo Pavi and Pueblo Bonito sites at Chaco Culture, as well as the tiny cemetery where Richard Wetherill is buried.  But we still had a few that we wanted to visit.  Or maybe I should say – that I wanted to visit.  Jon had pooped out and decided to avoid the wind chill by spending some time reading on his Kindle in the car.

Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl share the same parking lot, but have separate trails out to each site.  But, there is a trail connecting them that runs along the bottom of the cliff, and provides wonderful views of the petroglyphs on the cliff face.  Petroglyphs are pictures that have been carved into the rock; usually by chipping away the outer, darker surface of the stone with stone tools.  They are found all over the Southwest, and give insight into the things that the culture found important.

The Park Service has several stops marked on the trail, and you can stop at each stop and read about the petroglyphs located there in the trail guide that is sold at the Visitor’s Center, or at the parking area for $1.00.  You can also borrow and return a guide if you don’t want to buy it, but for only $1.00, I took mine home with me so I could match up my photographs with what I was seeing later on.

The sun makes him a little hard to see, but this is clearly a bird

The sun makes him a little hard to see, but this is clearly a bird

The petroglyphs here depict lots of geometric shapes, swirls, animals and human figures, although there is speculation that some of the human figures are supernatural beings (I’ll let you decide for yourself).  There is also graffiti that was left after Chaco Canyon was “re-discovered” in the 1800s and some contemporary graffiti.  I find it sad that some people don’t have respect for these beautiful, historic sites, because once they have been defaced and damaged, they are gone forever.

Some researchers believe this is a supernatural figure

Some researchers believe this is a supernatural figure

The trail is also a great place to view evidence of the blocks of rooms that were once built against the cliff.  They have collapsed now, but beam seats, where the poles that supported the ceilings were once placed, are still visible.  There is also evidence of a staircase carved into the rock, with handholds to help the Puebloan people climb the staircase and travel to other Chaco Canyon sites built on the top of the cliff.

At the end of the Petroglyph Trail, I reached Chetro Ketl, and explored it in absolute solitude.  Due to the challenges of the road leading into the park, and the fact that it was so cold that day, I was all alone at the site.  Chetro Ketl is another Great House; it began as a single room block around 1010 A.D.  but eventually grew over the next 100 years to be almost three acres in size.  It was three stories tall, and at its height contained about 225 first floor rooms, and another 275 second and third floor rooms.

The Great House – Chetro Ketl – approximately 500 rooms

The Great House – Chetro Ketl – approximately 500 rooms

Chetro Ketl shows signs of intentional burning.  Archaeologists don’t know why, but some guesses are to prevent others from using the site after it was abandoned, or to represent a ceremonial closing of the structure.  This Great House is also unique because the builders intentionally elevated the open plaza above the surrounding landscape, by hauling tons of dirt and rock to create a platform.  Reasons for this are also unknown, but it is believed that the builders may be been trying to mitigate the effects of flooding in the area that occurs after heavy rains.

Chetro Ketl – Do you see the beam seats in the cliff wall? They are towards the top, center of the photo

Chetro Ketl – Do you see the beam seats in the cliff wall? They are towards the top, center of the photo

Chetro Ketl also once had balconies, similar to the ones seen at Balcony House at Mesa Verde.  When Chaco Canyon was re-discovered in the 1800s, these balconies were still there, and were documented to be intact in 1901.  Sadly, over the next 20 years, scavengers looking for firewood and building materials destroyed the balconies.

The original wooden support beams – called vigas – wood doesn’t last 1,000 years where I live!

The original wooden support beams – called vigas – wood doesn’t last 1,000 years where I live!

There is also evidence of building with columns.  This style of architecture was not seen at other Puebloan sites, and archaeologists believe that the Chacoans borrowed this style from Toltec builders in Mexico.  The Chacoans traded turquoise and macaws with the Toltecs, so it makes sense that the influence would go beyond just trade goods.  Later construction at Chetro Ketl filled in the spaces between the columns, so now they are solid walls.

Much of Chetro Ketl was covered back over with sand after it was excavated, in order to protect the site from further decay, so it is a bit tougher to imagine what it was once like than Pueblo Bonito.  But it has so many unique features, that it is a fascinating structure to see.  I loved my time there.  I’ll tell you about the village site we visited next!

 

California Marathon Road Trip: Maidu Indian Museum

The last day of our California trip came too soon.  It was Tuesday, and Jon was still a bit sore from running the marathon on Sunday, so we had another relaxing day.  We stopped by Total Wine to pick out some wines to bring home, and did a little shopping.  Then we headed out to the Maidu Indian Museum in Roseville, CA.

The Maidu Indian Museum is a small museum and interpretive center that is located on the site of an ancient village where the Maidu people lived for over 3,000 years.  The area saw the first signs of human habitation around 9,000 years ago – and historians believe that the Maiduan dialect began breaking off from other Native American languages around 2,000 years ago.

Around the same time, inhabitants began settling down in the area and managing the land through the use of burning, pruning, and gathering selected plants.  Acorns were plentiful there, and they provided a nutritious staple for their diet.  The Maidu also fished, hunted and gathered plants and berries.  They had an extensive knowledge of the medicinal uses of the plants in the area, and actively treated the sick and injured with various remedies.

The Maidu are expert basket weavers, using the reeds and grasses to weave baskets that range in size from a thimble to several feet across.  The museum has several excellent examples of Maidu woven baskets, and ceremonial pieces, including tools and regalia.  There is also a photo exhibit of historical photographs of the tribe.

A beautiful hawk was watching us at the Maidu Historic Site

A beautiful hawk was watching us at the Maidu Historic Site

The museum contains exhibits detailing the history of the Maidu habitation of the site, from prior to the arrival of the settlers through the period when the Native Americans were displaced from the area after gold was discovered in the area.  Exhibits talk about the Maidu trail of tears, the forced relocation to undesirable land.  It was hard to read about the hardships of their new home, and the destruction of their way of life.

A Replica Dwelling at Maidu Historic Site

A Replica Dwelling at Maidu Historic Site

After checking out the museum, Jon and I stepped outside to take a walk on the interpretive trail.  The trail is a short loop around the property, with signs at several locations explaining how life took place there.  One of the most abundant examples of the history of habitation there are the bedrock mortar holes, where women used sticks to grind acorns for thousands of years.  Over time, the constant use of the holes wore deep depressions into the bedrock.

Bedrock Mortar Holes at Maidu Historic Site

Bedrock Mortar Holes at Maidu Historic Site

The site also contains petroglyphs, but these aren’t as apparent.  They give you a little map to help find them, but Jon and I only saw one that we were sure was a petroglyph.  The others seemed like they could be natural; there were long scratches on some of the rocks that looked like the marks that are left behind by glaciers as they move other huge rocks along with them.

A petroglyph at the Maidu historic site

A petroglyph at the Maidu historic site

This site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, so it will be preserved for future generations to understand all aspects of the area’s history.  It was a pleasant visit; not an amazing museum by any means, but worth a few hours of our time.  If you are in Roseville and find yourself with a few extra hours, stop in and see for yourself.