Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chaco Canyon Petroglyph Trail

The Petroglyph Trail at Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico runs for 0.25 miles along the base of the canyon wall between the large Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl Great House sites.

There is a printed trail guide with 12 stops describing the features along the trail. I started at the Pueblo Bonito end of the trail. The Pueblo Bonito site is the largest and most famous of the Chaco Canyon sites. Most of the images on the trail are faint and it helps to have binoculars to see the ones placed high on the canyon walls.
Most of the attention at Chaco Canyon is directed toward the very large structures, but there were many small unexcavated structures here, where most of the residents lived. Along the trail there are carved holes in the sandstone where wood beams were supported. Grooves in the sandstone are frequently seen and are thought to be places where stone tools were sharpened.

The first stops along the trail have some historic inscriptions from explorers and early European residents. There is also a discussion of the techniques and tools with pecking, abrading, incising, and drilling all combined to form images. A bird image is pointed out as a good example, though it is difficult to see.

There is one small site with some wall fragments still in place. Petroglyph panels are often associated with building sites. The trail guide mentions that many of the Chaco petroglyphs include spirals and open-armed and open-legged stick figures. These images often face south or east. There is no accurate ways to place a date on rock images but the age of the buildings may be a clue.

Chetro Ketl and Pueblo Bonita are large sites that are very close together and one can imagine that there was a lot of foot traffic between the two sites along this canyon wall. There are other petroglyphs to see on the Una Vida Trail near the Visitor Center and the Penasco Blanco Trail. The Wijiji Trail has a pictograph panel. I spent about 40 minutes on this segment of trail between the two famous Great Houses.

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