Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 48, Kansas to Arkansas

Kansas is a state located in the Midwestern United States.It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa tribe, who inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" .

Today, Kansas is one of the most productive agricultural states, producing many crops, and leading the nation in wheat, sorghum and sunflower production most years.

Next door is Colorado, a state located in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States of America and is nicknamed the "Centennial State" The state is well known for its magnificent scenery of mountains, rivers and plains.

On Bruce's recommendation, we are going to the Mesa Verde National Park , a UNESCO site in southwestern Colorado, that covers 52,121 acres of finger-like mesas cu t by steep-walled canyons.

Tucked into sandstone alcoves in these canyons are more than 6
00 cliff dwellings, for which the park is best known.

These stone masonry dwellings were built by the Ancestral Puebloans (previously known as the Anasazi) in the late 12th and 13th centuries and have stood uninhabited for over 700 years.

Thousands of prehistoric villages and archeological site
s, which usually pre-date the cliff dwellings, dot the tops of the mesas.

With the first permanent dwellings, built around A.D. 550, and the continuous occupation of the area lasting until the end of the 13th century, M
esa Verde National Park preserves a vital link to North America's prehistoric past.

We have decided to take a guided tour of Cliff Palace (since there were too many visitors at Balcony House and Long House).

This one-hour, ranger-guided tour involved climbing five, 8-10ft (2.6-3m) ladders, on a 100ft (30m) vertical climb and a total walking distance of about about 1/4-mile (400m).

Cliff Palace contains 23 kivas—round sunken rooms of cere
monial importance.

One kiva, in the center of the ruin, is at a point where the entire structure is partitioned by a series of walls with no doorways or other access portals
The walls of this kiva were plastered with one color on one side and a different color on the opposing side.

Archaeologists believe that the Cliff Palace contained two communities and that this kiva was used to integrate the two communities.

Tree ring dating indicates that construction and refurbishing of Cliff Palace was continuous from c. AD 1190 through c. 1260, although the major portion of the building was done within a twenty-year time span.

Cliff Palace was abandoned by 1300, and whilst there remains debate as the the causes of this, some believe a series of mega-droughts interrupting food production systems is the main cause........

Wow, that's was awesome......thanks for the recommendation Bruce.

These Puebloans sound fascinating so let's go to New Mexico, a state located in the southwestern region of the United States.

The climate of New Mexico is highly arid and its territory is mostly covered by mountains high plains, and desert.

New Mexico ranks as an important centre of Native American culture and the prehistorically agricultural Pueblo Indians live in pueblos scattered throughout the state, many older than any European settlement.

Once again Bonnie Jeanne steered us toward another UNESCO world heritage site...Taos Pueblo which symbolizes Indian resistance to external rule.

Our tour guide was very informative:

Still inhabited, the Taos Pueblo,begun before the sixteenth century!!

The pueblo consists of two clusters of houses, each built of sun-dried mud brick, with walls ranging from two feet thick at the bottom to about one foot thick at
the top.

Each year the walls are still refinished with a new coat of adobe plaster as part of a village ceremony.
The rooms are stepped back so that the roofs
of the lower units form terraces for those above.
The units at ground level and some of those above are entered b
y doors that originally were quite small and low; access to the upper units is by ladders through holes in the roof.
The living quarters are on the top and outside, while the rooms dee
p within the structure were used for storage of grain.
The roofs are made of cedar logs, their ends protruding through the walls; on the logs are mats of branches on which are laid grasses covered with a thick layer of mud and a finishing coat of adobe plaster.
It is a massive system of construction but one well suited to the rigors of the climate...

Hmm, it looks a little different the need for defensive structures relaxed, certain European architectural traits were adapted.

These included: fireplaces, exterior doors and a more extensive use of windows.

Nevertheless, Taos is a remarkable example of a traditional type of archite
ctural ensemble from the pre-hispanic period of the Americas unique to this region.

It is representative of a culture which has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.

Let's move on to the next UNESCO site in this region....the Chaco Canyon National Monument.

As we now know, for over 2,000 years, Pueblo peoples occupied a vast region of the south-western United States.

Between AD 850 and 1250, Chaco Canyon was a major centre of ancestral Puebloan culture. Many diverse clans and peoples helped to create a ceremonial, trade, and administrative center whose architecture, social organization and community life was unlike anything before or since.

The Chacoan people combined pre-planned architectural designs, astronomical alignments, geometry, landscaping, and engineering to create an ancient urban center of spectacular public architecture. Chaco was connected to over 150 communities throughout the region by engineered roads and a shared vision of the world.

After 1250, the people migrated from the area, moving south, east, and west, to join relatives living on the Hopi Mesas, along the Rio Grande, and around Zuni Mountain.

Radiating out from the Chaco complex are an enigmatic series of straight lines that extend ten to twenty miles into the desert. Conventional archaeological theories explain these lines as roads leading to outlying settlements, but this seems highly unlikely as the lines are arrow straight regardless of terrain.
They go over mesas (table-top mountains), up and down vertical cliff faces, and along ways that make them utterly impractical for use by the casual or commercial traveler. Perhaps they had another purpose. Perhaps these lines are better understood as markings that represent the out-of-body spirit travel of ancient native shamans....

Archaeological research does indeed indicate that the lines often lead to small shrine-like structures where evidence of religious and shamanistic activity is common. These mysterious lines, often apparently between no particular places, are found in many parts of the Anasazi realm. More than five hundred miles of the lines have so far been charted.
Nowadays they are mostly visible only from the air in the early morning or late afternoon, when the sun casts deep shadows. Inspecting these lines at ground level, it is evident that they have been acted upon by many hundreds of years of natural erosion, which has obscured all but scarce remains. It thus seems reasonable to suggest that these lines, prior to their erosion, could have been followed across great expanses of land, thereby delineating an enormous grid or map of sacred and shamanistic geography. .......

Where to next Marti? Oklahoma? A state located in the South Central region of the United States of America.

The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people",and is known informally by its nickname, The Sooner State.

A major producer of natural gas, oil and agriculture, Oklahoma relies on an economic base of aviation, energy, telecommunications, and biotechnology.
With small mountain ranges, prairie, and eastern forests, most of Oklahoma lies in the Great Plains and the U.S. Interior Highlands-a region especially prone to severe weather.

Next is Arkansas, a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquin name of the Quapaw Indians.

Its diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozarks and the Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River.....

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