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TRAIL OF THE ANCIENTS

From about the years 800 to 1300, the Four Corners area was dominated by a vigorous stone-age culture with an enthusiasm for building. They left no written records, only symbols painted on or scratched into rock. At the ancient's peak, the population of the region was greater than the current figure. Today, the arid plains are covered with a multitude of city and village sites. Most have been destroyed by the elements in the intervening 700 years, transformed to shallow pits and heaps of stone. The best-preserved structures are in difficult canyon locations, often great distances from permanent water sources. The enigma is why they put so much effort into these buildings. The masonry is impressive, with blocks painstakingly trimmed by stone tools. Materials for huge buildings were raised to sites inaccessible except by ladders. City designs were complex, merging square rooms with their beloved round underground kivas. Structures were constructed at the very edge of cliffs when it would have been much easier to move them back a few feet. Soaring towers were erected at the bottoms of canyons.

Photograph locations range from remote off-trail ruins to popular destinations (Mesa Verde National Park and Hovenweep National Monument).

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