Up close to ancient history

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It was one of the most unusual history places I’d ever visited. Perched high on a ladder over a deep canyon, all because of a National Geographic Traveler magazine article, I surveyed the scene:  brilliant blue sky, bright sunlight, canyon spread below, and narrow ledge above with some of most amazing prehistoric ruins in America. The Anasazis or ancestral puebloans, the prefered term, had arrived in the canyon around 500 A.D. and had built these dwellings in the early 1100’s and early 1200’s. By the end of the 1200’s the canyon was vacant. The people had moved on leaving spectacular ruins carved into the rock walls of the canyon.

Seeking to get away from any crowds at Mesa Verde National Park, my friend and I had read about the Ute Mountain Tribal Park, adjacent to Mesa Verde. The writer of the article had described an intimate, personal adventure with ancient ruins of the cliff dwellers.  So, we hired a Ute guide, Scotty Zane Jacket, and spent the better part of the day climbing ladders to narrow trails, looking at rock paintings and carvings, and going into the cliff ruins. Potsherds lay strewn around asking to be picked up and examined. The pottery pieces conveyed artistry and skill. I picked up pieces, thinking about the people that made them, and then put them back. At Mesa Verde, I know for sure that any pieces of pottery have years ago been packed up for preservation. The Utes trust their visitors, though over the years much has been stolen.

Here at Lion House and Tree House and other ruins, there is a palpable sense that the owners have left recently and may just possibly return sometime soon. This is making history accessible on a grand scale. Scotty does a good job of telling us the history, with a degree of detachment. The ancestral puebloans are a different tribe and while the Ute, the modern-day caretakers, seek to preserve and honor this special place, they don’t seem to have the deep feeling of connection that may have had if they were direct descendants.

This is facinating place, so far outside my usual haunts. If you plan to visit Mesa Verde, you may want to reconsider. For a little extra money, you can have a much deeper and grander adventure.

Have you visited the Ute Mountain Tribal Park? What did you think?

About Tim

Author, public historian, and consultant. Author site: timgrove.net - My fifth book, Star Spangled: The Story of a Flag, a Battle, and the American Anthem, was published in May 2020. Consulting site: grovehistoryconsulting.com I specialize in exhibition development, interpretive planning, education strategy, and history relevance. I'm passionate about helping history organizations of all sizes and kinds make history more relevant for their communities and the people they engage with. I'm happy to consider many types of writing projects for informal learning organizations. Reach me at tim@grovehistoryconsulting.com or authortimgrove@gmail.com
This entry was posted in art and culture, Native American, pre-America and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Up close to ancient history

  1. connally says:

    love the pix! looks like you and jay had a great time. wonderful….

  2. Nice job, Tim. Good-looking site. I continue to be a fan of yours as you continue to work on your craft.

  3. Rich says:

    Great blog concept. Always good to reignite a historical perpective and escape to a new place, if only for a few moments. Thanks!

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