I’ll give you serious Mesa Verde pictures, plus a bit more commentary, next week. But here is NW on her visit there …
This is the edge of Mesa Verde. (As you can see, NW is nearly overwhelmed by it.) You approach it from the north, where impressive cliffs like this loom over you. The road climbs, and then Mesa Verde itself is a vast elevated area with multiple smaller mesas and canyons where you find archaeological sites. Some of them are built along cliffs in the canyons, others are up on top of the mesa(s).
The whole region is studded with forests of burned trees. As we drove south from the entrance towards Wetherill Mesa (which is in the Southwest corner of the park), periodically we would see signs that said what year the fire in question happened. Some of these fires happened 10, 20, or 30 years ago. The climate is so dry that the burned trees are still standing and look fresh.
Here is the path created for tourists that leads down to Step House, which is a small cliff dwelling. As you can see, it’s leading down into a canyon.
The path down to Step House leads right past exposed sandstone cliffs like this one. Not surprisingly, rock shops are a really big deal all throughout the Four Corners region.
Step House, besides the remains of stone walls (cool!) also has one kiva and a few other, “proto-kivas,” like this one. A kiva is a round underground room. Modern pueblo Indians use kivas for ceremonies, so we assume that is how they were used by their ancestors at Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, and other sites. This one is called a proto-kiva because it’s smaller. The ranger, who was standing there, told me the Step House was settled around 600 AD, which is when the proto-kivas were built. Then there was a gap of a few hundred years, and it was settled again around 1200 AD, when the larger kiva was built. Apparently it was settled by the same people, or at least by people who made the same kind of pots. (But remember the archaeological caveat, “Pots are not people.”) The burned wood is still there from about a thousand years ago! This dry climate is fantastic for archaeology!
Here is a shot looking down into the bigger kiva, though NW did not photobomb this one.
But she did pose on this ladder, which is a re-constructed one leading up into the house part of the pueblo.
Somewhere in the Step House complex, NW found these petroglyphs. She is resting her club in a satisfied manner as though she just completed these herself. She did not, though. But they were obviously made by people, and the people were obviously kindred spirits in their desire to incise symbols, some of which look an awful lot like the Ice Age writing that NW herself once used.
You may remember, a few weeks ago, seeing a picture of Neanderthal Woman standing in front of these green clay layers.
N.W., my kids, and I encountered this site as we were driving through central Oregon. Actually, we had to go a bit out of our way to get to it.
Look at that! We’d been driving over fossil beds all day, ever since we crossed the border!
At one time, this whole area was a semi-tropical rainforest. Then, the whole thing was buried in a massive flow of mud. Supposedly, this happened in stages, starting about 50 million years ago, but let’s not quibble about exactly when. The point is, this forest is now preserved. It’s kind of sad to look up at those interesting-looking hills and imagine all the animal skeletons there, smooshed and squished and smothered in mud, just waiting to be dug out.
There is a small museum at the site, the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, where we took refuge from the heat. Here is my son drawing an ancient horse skull.
The forest primeval, reconstructed here, left a lot of petrified wood, like this chunk of sycamore …
And Oregon’s state fossil, the Metasequoia, which was later discovered to be alive and well in China.
There were also all kinds of interesting and bizarre ancient mammals, such as tiny early horses, giant rodents, and the “bear-dog” (which, as far as I can tell, was basically a wolverine). The crown jewel of the John Day mammal fossils, however, has to be the entelodont.
It is described as a carnivorous pig/hippo, six feet high at the shoulder. Not a creature you want to mess with. An artist’s speculative illustration showed one devouring a small triceratops.
The entelodont is not perfectly understood, however. As this display points out, nobody knows exactly what these strange bone flages on either side of its head were used for. Consequently, I suppose, we also don’t really know what it looked like.
Speaking of puzzling body parts, have you ever heard of a “horned rodent”?
Even the squirrels were scarier back then!
Bears have made it into the news a lot lately.
Scary, but ultimately harmless: A California woman pushes a bear to defend her dogs.
Terrifying: A Montana grizzly kills a woman in her tent.
Hi all, I’m back from vacation! I got plenty of material for blogging, both Neanderthal-Woman-related and non-NW, which I’ll be sharing with you over the next few weeks.
For now, here are some whimsical pictures of Neanderthal Woman. This little knitted cave person, custom made for me by a friend a few birthdays ago, turns out to be the perfect mascot to bring along on a trip and pose in various places. She is light, durable and squishy enough to carry in a pocket, and as a cave person, she is an endless source of prehistory-related tie-ins. She recently made the trip across the country and back dangling from my rearview mirror. Thanks, Arelis! NW is the gift that keeps on giving.
NW poses on a bison at Little America. This bison is actually slightly smaller than the aurochs which NW and her man used to kill and eat, back in the day.
It’s hard to tell, but here, she is posing on the back of a Sinclair dinosaur. Dinos power our vehicles, did you know?
Here, NW poses on the “Sky Prowler” puma sculpture found at the Colorado Information Center in Cortez, Colorado. Apparently, pumas are a big deal, symbolically, in the Four Corners region of the United States. I’m still looking into this.
I wanted you to see the puma’s paws, because they are so starry and beautiful.
That’s Sheep Rock in the background. Let’s zoom in:
See the “green clay” strata?
Don’t that take you back?
More about this site when I get back from my vacation.
Here she is on top of lovely Black Butte in Sisters, Oregon. I think those are the Three Sisters in the background. The caterpillar is, of course, Neanderthal jewelry, sort of like an ear cuff.
Okay, perhaps I won’t be completely off the grid for the next five weeks … but I will take a hiatus from blogging. The last three weeks of June, plus the first two or so of July, will be taken up with family travels. As I don’t yet have pictures from those travels, I am giving you lots of nice nature pictures in this post to hold you over: old favorites from both Pexels and my own stash of photos.
Last time I went “off the grid,” I posted this log cabin. (Not my actual house.)
This year, during our travels, I’ll try to bring along Neanderthal Woman and get some pictures of her in various locations.
And yeah, I might do some gardening.
You may see a few blog posts go up while I’m gone. I have been trying to get The Long Guest converted to e-book format. If/when that succeeds, I’ll inform you via a post. I also have a special Muppet guest blogger planned for the Fourth of July.
Other than that … Have a great month! I hope you get to do lots of fun, summery things while I am doing same!
(Just as a reminder, the Proto-Indo-European word for bear was probably rtko-. Watch out for those rtko-.)