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Southwestern Winter Deserts

Aztec New Mexico

Around the 12th century BCE, an advanced culture of humans appeared in the geological and archaeological record of the southwestern deserts of North America. These people built distinctive homes in these incredibly harsh wastelands. Their most distinguishing architectures are the pueblos, which first appeared in the geological and archaeological record around CE 750–900. Because of this unique architecture these people became known as the Puebloans or the Pueblo peoples.

Part of the force that drew Julia and I to travel 3,500 miles from home into the frozen desert, was to experience first-hand the remains of this great American culture. Our first exposure to the Puebloans' handywork was at the small town of Aztec in New Mexico. Because the Spanish invaders of the Americas had just subjugated the Aztec culture in South America, the first name that came to their minds when they discovered these ruins was Aztec; and this incorrect name has stuck. Of course, the remains of the grand buildings at Aztec were not the work of the Aztecs, but rather the creation of the Puebloans.

At the Aztec Ruins National Monument, we got to walk around and through the once busy town of the Pueblo peoples. Given that the Puebloans had no metal skills, nor did they use the wheel their stonework and masonry is astounding. This place reminded me so much of Pompei in Italy. In each place one can feel how ancient people worked, traded and sold, and lived and died; just as we do today.

Chimney Rock Colorado

We'd become so excited about the Puebloans and their magnificent empire that we decided to add an extra 100 miles to our planned trip today and drove out to Chimney Rock in Colorado. Our current location in the frozen deserts of the southwest has us at the juncture of four American States: Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado. Because of this proximity we constantly leave one State for another, sometimes several times in one day. Unfortunately, Chimney Rock was closed when we got there, but the drive and views of the astounding countryside were worth the effort.

Durango Colorado

Carl Gustav Jung the famous Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology coined the name anima, which he used to refer to his imagined idea of a soul or a life. For him the animas described human inner personality that is turned toward the unconscious of the individual. And he used the word, in contrast to animus, to describe the feminine principle especially as present in men.

Interestingly, the beautiful river that flows through the quaint ski-resort town of Durango in Colorado is named the Animas River; I will leave it up to your imagination to decide why this is.

Durango has become our home for a few days now to enable us to explore the wonders of this area.

Mesa Verde

The Pueblo Indian empire was vast. It is estimated that during its heyday there were more people living in the four corners region of these southwestern deserts than live here today. Because of this the Puebloans had many cities distributed all around these parts all connected by a complex network of roads. The Pueblo Indian city at Aztec New Mexico was placed halfway between the enormous cities of at Chaco in the south, today known as Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Mesa Verde National Park in the north.

Julia and I got to visit this magnificent northern city of the Pueblo peoples: Mesa Verde. The site is a time capsule of the development of this accomplished culture. Here can be found the beginnings of their architecture, which were similar in style to the Celtic ruins we'd seen in western Ireland. Not much more than holes carved out of the ground with stone tools. To their most intricate pueblos that are reminiscent of the castles we also experienced in England and Ireland.

Remains of a Civa, something akin to a chapel

What an amazingly accomplished and, sadly, today almost forgotten peoples. Of course, after the mysterious collapse of this once stupendous human culture they did not disappear completely. Their ancestors live on in this still harsh area today: the Hopi native Americans are their direct descendants.

Is the outcome of the Puebloans' culture an analogy of what is instore for our global human cultures today? Sadly, I think so.


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