Friday, September 5, 2008

Una Vida Trail at Chaco Canyon

The Una Vida Trail is a one mile loop to a 100 room, 5 kiva ruin site at the east end of the remote Chaco Canyon Historical Park in northwest New Mexico.

The trail head is in the parking lot of the Visitor Center, the first hiking opportunity when arriving. This site is in a natural state of preservation, having experienced little excavation or vandalism.

Una Vida is thought to be located along an eight mile straight line that includes the Great Houses of Pueblo Bonito in the center and Penasco Blanco on the west end of Chaco Canyon. The structures are on a slight hill on the north side of the canyon. Roads connected the sites and perhaps there was line of sight communication.

The original shape of the site is L shaped, but it's hard to see that. The trail cuts between the main room block and the plaza area. The site was terraced down the hillside. Unexcavated large circular kivas are in the center of the plaza area.

Construction of the site is thought to have started about 850 AD and continued in episodes over the next 250 years. The clues for this are the different masonry styles in different areas. The view from the site is across the Chaco Wash to the south side of the canyon.

Some of the materials from this site are thought to have been recycled by Navajo herdsmen into several traditonal hogan dwellings, an oven, and a sheep corral in the 1800s. These structures were laid dry, without using and mortar. The grass lands at the time would have supported large herds.

Toward the canyon wall side of the trail is a side route to a small petroglyph site. The Chaco area seems to be rich in petroglyphs with many sites along the length of the mostly steep sandstone canyon walls.

I thought these figures were somewhat elongated and rectangular compared to others in the region, perhaps the preferred style of the artist. These figures are often recognized as clan symbols by current day Pueblo People and trace the history of their migrations.

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