The Journey Into Art: San Juans In The Fall - Day 3 Hovenweep Pueblo

November 27, 2020

Hovenweep Pueblo was occupied from around 1200-1300 CE. All signs of occupation were really gone by 1280 CE. The site has not been fully excavated, so we only know some generalities about the area.

The architecture is similar to archeological ruins in Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.

a window style like that in Chaco Canyon

A quote from the National Parks Service states:

Many theories attempt to explain the use of the buildings at Hovenweep. The striking towers might have been celestial observatories, defensive structures, storage facilities, civil buildings, homes or any combination of the above. While archeologists have found that most towers were associated with kivas, their actual function remains a mystery.

By the end of the 13th century, it appears a prolonged drought, possibly combined with resource depletion, factionalism and warfare, forced the inhabitants of Hovenweep to depart. Though the reason is unclear, ancestral Puebloans throughout the area migrated south to the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico and the Little Colorado River Basin in Arizona. Today's Pueblo, Zuni and Hopi people are descendants of this culture.

The first historic reports of the abandoned structures at Hovenweep were made by W.D. Huntington, the leader of a Mormon expedition into southeast Utah in 1854. The name "Hovenweep" is a Paiute/Ute word meaning "Deserted Valley" which was adopted by pioneer photographer William Henry Jackson in 1874. In 1917-18, J.W. Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution surveyed the area and recommended the structures be protected. On March 2, 1923, President Warren G. Harding proclaimed Hovenweep a unit of the National Park System.

an entrance into a round tower

Hovenweep is visited by about 38,000 people a year. That number is certainly far less than many other parks and monuments. Yet it does have the feel of a frequently visited place by people looking and wandering about without careful consideration of where they are and what they are seeing. They are looking around, talking to each other, walking by the ruins with brief glances, passing signs without reading them, and walking at paces that suggest they are in a hurry.

Some can isolate themselves from others around them even in a crowded environment to understand their experience. I must have space and quiet to hear my deeper experience. I was grateful for a sparse group of visitors at this time in early October.

Spending several hours wandering, sitting, looking, and experiencing the current setting is the first step in experiencing a place like this. For in the end it is the experience that moved and changed me and not the pictures I brought back to show "I was there". Yet these pictures are the best I can convey of that time and deeper experience.