Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

The park is located between Durango and Cortez in the southwest corner of Colorado. The entire area, including the large park, is dotted with the architectural remnants of the Pueblo indians.

 The centerpiece of the park is an excellent museum that displays small dioramas built by depression era Civilian Conservation Corp artisans. These displays illustrate the development of Pueblo architecture and building techniques over a period of many centuries.

The Pueblo Indians attained a high state of technology and the museum contains fine examples of stone and bone tools, jewellery, pottery, building construction materials, woven cotton clothing, woven baskets, arrows and similar artifacts. Some of these items are from Mexico and California implying that a widespread trading system had developed.


The museum also contains many fine fossils and examples of rare stones, including my personal favorite, the Firecloud. One exhibit does a good job of speculating about the original migration from Asia ten to twenty thousand years ago.

At the high point of this culture, before a great drought in the 13th century, these people were building large villages of three-story stone houses that still stand proudly after eight centuries. The development of agriculture (including corn, beans, cotton and squash) allowed this people to build and develop an impressive civilization. The type of construction and the density of construction sites imply a very long period of peace before a retreat to more defensible cliff dwellings.

 Dendrochronology, or the study of tree rings, has enabled archeologists to precisely date the times that various buildings were constructed and when this large civilization disintegrated and migrated to Arizona and New Mexico to form (or join) six related tribes, including the Mogollons. Speculation is that rapid population growth, combined with a great drought of thirty years, caused the collapse of this advanced civilization.

One of the exhibits has some interesting speculation about the origin of corn. One theory is that it originated as a deliberate cross between two weeds, implying that genetics was developed long before Gregory Mendel started playing around with peas.

The park burned to the ground in 1991 due to Park Service mismanagement and failure to allow small natural fires to clear wood trash and undergrowth. The blackened, dead Junipers will require 150 years or more to recover. It's a different type of park, but worth a day. We find a place to spend the night and I ask my faithful companion if we can have liver and onions for Veterans Day. She says, mysteriously, 'Next year, in Jerusalem'.

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