The third day of my time in the San Juans was not in the San Juans. It was spent in the Canyon of the Ancients. I went for the fall colors in the San Juans and to spend a day with the ancient ones.
My first stop was the Painted Hand Pueblo in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. There are no contiguous buildings tucked in a covering of overhanging sandstone as in Mesa Verde. There is just a cluster, a pueblo.
Remarkably, of the 61 or so ancient Puebloan sites in southeastern Colorado, 51 have 50 or more structures to the settlement. I found that quite amazing and unexpected.
It is a rare experience to have time to sit and imagine what was life like those many years ago. They say this area was occupied from the mid- to late 1200's. In the late 1200's all appeared to have left the area and moved south or southeast. So say the archeologists.
It is honestly hard to imagine life 750 years ago anywhere on earth.
It takes many hours wandering these and other ruins to even begin to imagine. In the end I must confess I cannot do anything but imagine.
Even the archeologists know little about the why of what happened here. They can tell us some of the what, what they ate and made and the circumstances of their living. They cannot tell us why they came here and why they left.
It is that very uncertainty that draws me.
The painted hand