Weekend Photos: Ruins and Rock Art

Last week was a narrative photo post about our backpack trip through Grand Gulch in the Bears Ears National Monument. Today I'm sharing a bunch of the cool archaeology we saw there, with little comment and no order :)  Partly this is because I'm lazy, and partly because I don't have the knowledge to say much. The ruins and rock are are lumped together as "Ancestral Puebloan," but range in age from maybe 500 to 1800 years old. A stop at the museum in Blanding after the hike gave us some idea of the ages of some of the potsherds we saw, but I will need many repetitions to really get it sorted.

Some ruins are pretty much inaccessible to ordinary mortals. I imagine rockfall has closed routes the original inhabitants used, but they were also definitely intrepid climbers.

Other ruins were easily reached (if I got to them, they were easy).
On this mud wall you can still see the handprints of the person who made it. I sat with that a while, thinking about the person who sat in that spot to spread adobe over sticks hundreds of years ago, creating a place to store the family's corn.

Matates, found throughout the gulch, also connect you to the past. A woman, maybe an old woman half my age, squatted with this stone and a mortar and ground corn. Maybe she was thinking about her children and grandchildren and if there was enough. Likely she was chatting with the other women engaged in the same task. I wonder what Ancestral Puebloan women gossiped about?

A communal grinding stone? They had amazing views from their perches. I wonder if they thought of the landscape as beautiful, or if it was just... there.

Jailhouse Ruin.

See the grilled window that gave the ruin its name?

Perfect Kiva.

Restored and stabilized to be one of the rare structures you are allowed to enter. For the most part visitors are asked to stay out of and off of structures and walls to avoid damage.

Inside the kiva. A modern reproduction of the ladders they would have used!

We saw so many little granaries tucked in so many nooks. This one was odd in being at ground level.

Bits of pottery and stone chips (from tool-making), along with a corn cob, preserved in this dry climate for perhaps a millennium.

From early on they painted their pots, which can only be an artistic impulse--other than maybe identification, decoration serves no functional purpose, so I will assume it satisfied a different kind of need.

Similarly, though some of the rock art may have been some kind of mapping, and I'm sure it had religious significance, some of it feels like personal expression.

Grand Gulch is the first place I've seen so much color--green, yellow and blue all showed up in addition to the more common red and white.


Big Man panel

Hands are universal. In this canyon, most are prints, and negatives like this are rare.

Not a handprint, but a hand.

These people were farmers. Some kind of grain, and rakes?

Some figures were unmistakably male. Others, clearly female. Headless females bother me a bit.

Unmistakably male.

A very busy panel.

My initial reaction was a two-headed alien, but I suspect this is a person whose head has just been cloven in two in battle.

The Green Mask is perhaps the most famed art in the Gulch.

In our final campsite, we found evidence that someone had come before us--with time on their hands. Sort of like the people who lived there so long ago? Fortunately, this kind of thing doesn't leave a permanent mark--which no modern visitor should do. But we were impressed with the detail in this home suitable for Fred Flintsone and family!

Petey Possum considers moving in.

Next week--maybe I'll finally write some more flash fiction for you all? Watch this space!

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2024
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  1. These are awesome! I've only been to Mesa Verde. Are these dwellings just there for anyone to wander into, or is it a regulated park at all?

    1. These are in the National Monument and there are strict regulations (do not enter the ruins and don't touch the art), but there are no rangers or roped off areas in most of the canyon--pretty much only in those things accessible by dayhikers. Overnight hikers must get permits and a briefing on proper behavior.

  2. Stunning. I’m convinced they appreciated the landscape.

    1. I'm certain they appreciated being able to see a long way.


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