May 26, 2012 § Leave a comment


All things being equal, it’s usually the simplest explanation….




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“Hovenweep is a quiet, contemplative place that reminds us we are not the first sophisticated civilization to inhabit this beautiful, rugged land.” – National Parks Conservation Association


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Hovenweep Natural Landscape


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“Human habitation at Hovenweep dates to over 10,000 years ago when nomadic Paleoindians visited the Cajon Mesa to gather food and hunt game. These people used the area for centuries, following the seasonal weather patterns. By about A.D. 900, people started to settle at Hovenweep year-round, planting and harvesting crops in the rich soil of the mesa top. By the late 1200s, the Hovenweep area was home to over 2,500 people.

The towers of Hovenweep were built by ancestral Puebloans, a sedentary farming culture that occupied the Four Corners area from about A.D. 500 to A.D. 1300. Similarities in architecture, masonry and pottery styles indicate that the inhabitants of Hovenweep were closely associated with groups living at Mesa Verde and other nearby sites…..

Most of the structures at Hovenweep were built between A.D. 1200 and 1300. There is quite a variety of shapes and sizes, including square and circular towers, D-shaped dwellings and many kivas (Puebloan ceremonial structures, usually circular). The masonry at Hovenweep is as skillful as it is beautiful. Even the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde rarely exhibit such careful construction and attention to detail. Some structures built on irregular boulders remain standing after more than 700 years.

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.”


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Hovenweep National Monument Castle Walls

Hovenweep is a delight to photograph. Its remote location at the border between Utah and Colorado and its overshadowing neighboring park, Mesa Verde, make sure that this park receives only a trickle of visitors when compared to other places. It is very unlikely that you get much disturbance during your photo session and if you do, you can easily outwait everyone.


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“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.”


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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.


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Lowry Pueblo


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Hovenweep 2004 Summer Solstice

Hovenweep National Monument straddles the southern, Utah-Colorado border.
Latitude 37d 23′ 09N
Longitude 109d 04′ 49W
Altitude 5,200 feet


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Sun dagger at Hovenweep National Monument

Two concentric circle petroglphs are illuminated as the sun rises on the Summer solstice. Within in a matter of minutes two separate shafts of light, the first appearing from the left and the second from the right, make contact in the center forming one large band of light. Not unlike possible sun watching stations in Chaco Canyon, this example indicates that ancestral Puebloans may have taken advantage of natural solar markers. Carving designs to mark the seasons.


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Ceramic Analysis of Sherd Collections from Hovenweep National Monument


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“Hovenweep is not a place that you just happen to be going by… You have to want to go there and drive the extra miles out of your way to get there.”


“Outlying Ruins”:  http://www.neartime.com/ruins/outlying.htm

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