Touring Ancestral Puebloan Sites
One of the most enchanting experiences in the high desert Southwest is visiting an abandoned Ancestral Puebloan site. For a potent mix of history, mystery, desert beauty and lessons in adapting to a harsh environment, puebloan sites are unsurpassed.
Puebloan communities are often tucked away in remote canyons, perched atop windswept mesas or situated along rock benches below towering canyon walls. At site after site, expertly built and organically conceived masonry structures blend almost seamlessly into the landscape.
We often refer casually to these sites as “ruins,” although the term would probably surprise the former inhabitants. All the physical evidence points to a cultural ecology that embraced natural decay as the accepted way of things. When puebloans’ functional need for a tool, ceremonial object, pot or building ceased, it was meant to return to the earth. Puebloan people often left entire communities, built by hard labor over several generations, en masse, never to return.
Consequently, at many of these sites, evidence of daily life abounds, in the form of largely intact stone dwellings and ceremonial buildings, discarded tools, potsherds, granaries, rain cachement and diversion pathways, trash middens and even celestial markers that still track the positions of sun, moon and stars. Organic material decays slowly in the desert, so timbers, mud and brush roofs, and even food staples such as corn may linger for centuries before finally disappearing into the sand.
A half dozen intriguing sites can be visited within a 25-35 minute drive from Sedona Real. The hotel sits at the gateway to the Dry Creek Basin area, where the Palatki and Honanki Heritage Sites attract visitors from all over the world. Both sites feature cliff dwellings and “rock art” panels, sections of vertical rock face covered with petroglyphs and pictographs. Some symbols and figures date back 5-6000 years.
V Bar V Heritage Site, on the banks of beautiful Beaver Creek, boasts a solar calendar. The ancients showed a keen interest in the movements of sun, moon and stars for a variety of reasons that archaeologists are still investigating. Keeping track of planting and harvest times for corn, beans and squash accounted for part of it. Their attention to certain star clusters also suggests a cosmology and a set of spiritual practices that today are but little understood.
Tuzigoot National Monument, on a hilltop outside of Cottonwood, overlooks the Verde River. A paved path behind the visitors center winds around and through the remnants of stone dwellings and kivas, or ceremonial buildings. The visitors center houses artifacts and displays recounting what is known of the Verde Valley’s early inhabitants.
Montezuma Castle, on Beaver Creek, showcases cliff dwellings and a self-guided interpretive trail. Montezuma Well, a mesa-top, spring fed pool, provided a constant water source for humans and animals over thousands of years. Both sites illuminate the lives of bygone people and their environment.
Visit any of these wonderful sites and glimpse the wisdom and aspirations of a vanished culture expressed in the physical remnants of their lives. For “ruins” they have a lot to offer.
Call our concierge at 800-353-1239 today to make your reservation this spring or summer at Sedona Real Inn & Suites.
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Blog contributed by Tod at Sedona Real Inn & Suites
Photo Credit: Username: Alphatengobravo at Flickr.