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May 11, 2010

7

Lesser Visited Ruins in New Mexico

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Traveling by motorcycle south to north through New Mexico took me through  Native American ruin sites in the opposite order of when they flourished.  The first I saw and newest of them was the Salinas Pueblo Missions, a bit older was Bandelier National Monument, and finally Chaco Canyon.  This is the same way an archeologist would encounter them as they excavate from top to bottom.

Mission Church

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Mission Church

 

I certainly could have used one or two experts to help me as there was so much going on at the sites.  Without that advantage, I was able to enter each area with fresh eyes and appreciate what is still there and imagine what once was.  The eye-opener for me was the first I came to, Gran Quivira.

I spent a couple hours riding north on a little used road figuring to enjoy the ride and maybe find a distraction for lunch at some point.  One great thing about traveling in the US is that even if you don’t know you’re near something there will be a sign to let you know.  I pay far more attention to the brown and blue signs than the others.

The sign for Gran Quivira led me to a site atop a hill with views for miles in every direction.  I stopped into the visitor center to get my brochure and chatted with the park ranger.  He pointed me to their museum which was fantastic!  Just one small room, but all the information you wanted and superb artifacts – pottery, tools, statues.  I came out amazed. “Where are those found at this site?”

“That’s just a fraction of it.  There are rooms full of more”, was the reply.  I guess there would have to be to have such a good exhibit.

Homes - Exit Through The Roof

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Homes – Exit Through The Roof

 

At the top of the hill was an apartment complex of pithouses surrounded by kivas and a spanish mission.  Each home about 8′ x 10′ and sharing all four walls with the neighbor.  The ceilings had holes in them for entering and one would simply walk along the top of the wall to get to their pit.  Daily work was done on the ceilings surrounded by neighbors in the community fashion that Native Americans lived.

This site was the first of three I visited in the Mountainair area that the Spanish settled at in the 1600’s.  With them they brought some gooduch as improved farming techniques and herd animals.  And bad, they claimed the land for Spain, demanded tributes for the king, and created religious conflict.  Missions were constructed at each of the sites who’s scope far exceeded anything done previously.  This took away from the labor force offsetting any gains in efficiency brought by the Spainards.  Some of this reduced crop was then taken for tribute.  Throw in a natural drought and boom – 7,000 years of settlement were eliminated in 70 years.

Quarai Mission

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Quarai Mission

 
Stone Floor And Walls Of Mission

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Stone Floor And Walls Of Mission

 

The two other sites on the Salinas Mission Trail are Abó and Quarai.  Both are dominated by the missions and most of the Native American ruins remain unexcavated.  Quari reminded me a bit of Thailand’s ancient capital, Auytthaya, both in the feel of the site and the red brick architecture.  The town of Mountainair is in the middle of the three sites and has a visitor center for the sites and a 20 minute film worth stopping for.

Bandelier National Monument, 20 miles south of Los Alamos, contains cliff homes and cave dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo People (formerly called Anasazi).  Several short trails take you through Frijoles Canyon past a large kiva, a pithouse complex on the canyon floor, cave dwellings, and a large alcove house.  Of course there are more sites such as the Rio Grande river and painted cave which require longer hikes to get to.  I stuck to the main route for my visit.

See Part Of Second Level

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See Part Of Second Level

 
Alcove House

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Alcove House

 

There are a few caves dwellings they have ladders for entry.  It was amazing how much cooler they were in the middle of the day just being inside a couple feet.  I’m told it can actually get hot in New Mexico and those homes would be the way to go.   The Alcove House was the literal highlight as you go up 140′ over four ladders to get to a large alcove in cliff face.  Several huts were carved further into the rock and a replica kiva hut was built that you are allowed to enter.  With a view of the canyon and river below it was a great place to occupy.

I said at the beginning the last site I visited was Chaco Canyon.  I’m going to give that it’s own post in a few days due to its size and importance in Native American history.

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lisa Neely
    May 11 2010

    REally? Frijoles Canyon? I hear there is a Tequila, Mexico as well. Now that ought to be included in your travels but alas, it is far too south for this trip. Maybe next year…

    Reply
  2. May 12 2010

    Those Pueblo houses made me think Flintstones, Amazing to see the constructed houses, As a non American I always thought the Native Americans lived in Tepees and were nomadic. This sure does change perspective a little,

    The spaniards seem to have done in America what the Brits did in Southern Africa. Destruction rather than progress

    Reply
    • May 12 2010

      I hadn’t really thought about the common perceptions. You’re absolutely right. Wait till you see the 1,000 year old building at Chaco Canyon in a couple of days.

      Reply
  3. May 14 2010

    Man, I’ve really gotta hit up the Southwest. Such cool stuff!

    Reply
    • May 21 2010

      And it has just kept getting better.

      Reply
  4. Awesome blog!!!! AND photos! You should consider Spain, especially Asturias for bike tours. You might never leave again 🙂

    Reply
  5. jenna
    Nov 10 2011

    This is so cool! I’d like to visit this area since it’s such a great landmark of Native American History. Great post. 🙂

    Reply

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