I recently visited some of the ancient sites at the Chaco Culture National Historic Park in New Mexico. From around AD 850 to 1250 it was the hub of civilization in the southwestern United States. There are magnificent ruins there … buildings that once stood 4 stories tall, complexes with over 600 rooms. It is a magical place full of spirits and unanswered questions, much like the mounds here at home.
Seeing the remains of those great houses made me wonder what the ancient moundbuilders would have done with that much stone. Would they, too, have built such beautiful structures? What would they have left us if only they had better building materials?
During the reign of Chaco Canyon, structures such as this one, Pueblo Arroyo, were scattered all over the desert.
While back in northeastern Louisiana, earthworks, such as this one at Insley Mounds, were existing during the same time frame.
While the canyon dwellers were hauling large timbers across the high desert, the people of the low country were hauling baskets of earth across the delta .
As I was sitting in my tent one evening, I read a statement about Chaco Canyon that “… in this dusty corner of North America, civilization had begun.” However, over 4000 years before Chaco, people were living in organized complexes of mounds near my home. And approximately 2500 years before Chaco, the large and remarkable complex of Poverty Point was the hub of civilization for the Western Hemisphere.
Chaco Canyon and the other ancient Anasazi sites might provide us with more to see but the ancient sites of the moundbuilders might just provide us with more remarkable stories. If only we can preserve and study them before the stories are lost to us forever.