Mystery Pix, Solved!

by wjw on May 2, 2012

DorjePismo was right, the Mystery Picture was a Native American structure, or what’s left of one.

In fact it was probably a kiva, an underground ceremonial structure.  At any rate, it was the largest room in the small, mesa-top pueblo.

I won’t say where we were, except that we were roughly in the Four Corners area.  The reason I’m being so coy is that this particular pueblo is known only to a very few people, and has never  been excavated.  It’s very remote, perched on top of a mesa, and contains maybe 30 rooms.  I won’t mention whether it’s on private land or not.

If I give the location away, pothunters might come in and strip-mine the place.  Though it would be a lot of work: they’d have a very hard time getting a backhoe up those cliffs.

But in fact someone’s been digging very recently.  These two photos show two pits that weren’t there the last time our guide visited the place.  Professional archaeologists would have filled the pits in, so either these were dug by amateur would-be archaeologists or pothunters looking for treasure.

Pothunters wouldn’t have done so neat a job, I reckon, so I’m hoping that the site is still safe from plunder.

The two pits show the excellent masonry of the late Chaco culture, say 12th century.  The top picture also shows evidence of fire, which means it may have been some kind of chimney, or held a fire pit.

The pueblo was clearly sited for defense, with cliffs on three sides, and a difficult trail on the fourth.  (The Chacoans paid a lot of attention to defense, particularly as their civilization began to crumble.)  The nearest water was a mile or more away, so clearly safety trumped convenience in this case.

The area around the pueblo was filled with potsherds, arrowheads, spear points, and tools— most of them broken.  Whenever the inhabitants broke something, they just chucked it off the cliff.  I found a large number of broken pots, some very nice black-on-white designs, and a superabundance of broken tools.  After admiring them, I left them all on site.

One of our party found the claw of a mountain lion, which looked seriously wicked. (This would be a modern mountain lion, not a Chacoan lion.  If you were wondering.)

Afterwards we wandered to a nearby water source and enjoyed watching the sunset from the cool refuge.  Navajos had decorated the area with petroglyphs, and we could see stars, birds, a horseback warriors with a lance, and other glyphs far more mysterious.

It was a magical journey, and all the more magical for it being our secret.


Sean Craven May 2, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Color me jealous. Glad to hear about this.

Ralf The Dog. May 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm

The Native Americans could have been Hobbits. I win!!!

Glad you had fun. I spent a few weeks at an archeological rescue dig when I was a kid. The state was building a lake over some very valuable sites and we were trying to recover as much as we could, while getting good data and not damaging the artifacts. It was quite fun. I hope your site remains uncontaminated and unlooted.

When you look at the structures they built and lived in, it is hard to believe, they did it without power equipment or transportation, all the time, feeding themselves without power equipment or transportation and keeping others from killing them without power equipment or transportation.

If this is how most people have lived throughout most of human existence, you wonder why we are all getting fat.

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