Monday, September 24, 2012

Cliff Dwellers of Canyon de Chelly

We continue our tour through Canyon de Chelly near Chinle, AZ.

Although archeological evidence shows that people have lived in these canyons for nearly 5,000 years, the only signs of the first residents are the images etched or painted on the canyon walls. We will show some of those images tomorrow.

Around 2,500 years ago (200 B.C.E - C.E. 750), people who have been called Basketmakers(because of their weaving skills) built household compounds, storage facilities, and social and ceremonial complexes high on ledges on the canyon walls.

One example is presented in the next three photos. The first photo shows the distance of the inhabited area from the top of the cliff,

this photo shows the distance above the ground,

and this photo shows the remains of the household compound.

The upper one-third portion of the cliff shown below appears to have the shape of a lizard,

and it appears above the remains of other buildings.

We had to view the cliff dwellings in the canyon from a considerable distance, but our guide Percy patiently waited until we found them.

Given their small size and how well they blended into the surrounding rocks and cliff, it was easy to see how the ledges and the available building materials provided both security and a living space.

Just to the left of the tree on the right is another secure living space.

A closer view of this space is shown below.

The buildings shown in the next two photos were the only ones we saw that were built on the canyon floor.

We didn't ask if these served a different purpose than those built into the cliffs.

The photo below shows another grouping of building remains, and
and the next three photos show closer views of different buildings in the photo above.

Some of the building sites had identifying names, such as White House, Sliding House, and Antelope House. However,
Percy did not identify the sites.

Sadly, vandals have reached these dwellings in the photo below and written on them.

Given the seeming inaccessibility of these buildings built into the cliffs, we wondered how the people navigated the distance around the canyon and the dwellings.

One means of moving up and down the cliffs was by ladder, and one is shown in the left-center portion of the photo on the right.

The more common means of movement on the cliffs was through the use of footholds or handholds carved into the side of the cliffs. Examples of theses columns or rows of holes are shown in the photos on the right and below.

At one stop on the tour, with no announcement, Percy nimbly climbed this cliff wall using the holes.

Fortunately, he did not ask us to follow him up the cliff.

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