An hour’s drive northwest from Santa Fe is a place where humans lived centuries before the state of New Mexico and its cities existed. I hiked through the wild landscape and ruins of Bandelier National Monument with my cousin and his partner in 2014. Although I didn’t detour there again on this recent road trip to Santa Fe, it seemed appropriate to include it here.
Ancestral Pueblo people began building settlements in Frijoles Canyon as early as 1150 CE. By 1550, they had left the area to establish various pueblos around what is now New Mexico. Structures on the canyon floor and cave dwellings built into the rock walls can still be seen.
Who was Bandelier? Adolph Bandelier was an archeologist and ethnographer who studied Native American pueblos and ruins in the 1880s. There was little interest nationally at the time to pursue research into native history and culture. John Wesley Powell, a well-known explorer, naturalist, and then director of the U.S. Geological Survey, helped convince the Archeological Institute of America to support Bandelier’s work. He continued his research into Central and South America.
The monument lands stretch far into backcountry wilderness with petroglyphs, waterfalls, and wildlife, but we just followed the Pueblo Loop trail around notable sites and along the cliffs that afternoon.
One can imagine the structures that completed these ruins on the canyon floor. Rooms where people lived, cooked and ate, raised their families, and honored their spirits.
Strange shapes in the cliffs caused by weather and wind.
Cliff dwellings: Were they used as housing or just for ceremonies?
Along the return trail
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