Monday, May 3, 2010

Wupatki National Monument

Having just chilled ourselves with the snow at Sunset Crater, it was an easy drive over to Wupatki National Monument to warm up. Wupatki is at lower elevation than Sunset Crater, so it tends to be warmer, and on Friday we found it about ten degrees warmer, with no snow showers. Wupatki is one of several abandoned pueblos in this area, and probably the largest and most complete.

As you can tell in this photo of the main structure, no one has lived here for awhile, and some of the structure has been reinforced or repaired in hopes of reducing further deterioration. I wonder, if my home were left undisturbed for several hundred years, would archaeologists descend upon it and declare it a national monument?

Those that have studied this site believe several tribes have inhabited the location over several centuries, and evidently it is not as attractive as a homesite now as it once was. Since we have not studied the site in detail, nor been privileged to unearth the things left behind by past inhabitants, our comments will be based primarily on our initial impressions.

Here's a closer view of the main structure showing many rooms on, apparently, several levels, all constructed with flat stones held together with mortar. You'll notice some large rocks in some of the rooms, either as part of a wall, or occupying space inside the room. I've seen similar things done recently when folks wanted their home to be "an extension of the landscape around it." Is that what the first inhabitants here had in mind? I've heard some tribes described as having a close connection to the earth, but sharing your room with a boulder is lost on me.

It's evident this pueblo was built on a rock outcropping intentionally. There are plenty of suitably sized spaces between the rocks in this area that I think would have provided wonderful building sites, but then I wasn't here to influence the opinions of the original builders. I examined this room with Gretel and asked for her opinion of why the room was built with the stone in the corner. Gretel thinks the top of the stone makes a nice shelf, and the space beneath the stone looks like a great spot to hide things out of the way. Of all the mysteries of this abandoned dwelling, I think the rationale behind building your home with rocks protruding into your rooms may be the one that puzzles me the most.

This is a reconstructed ball court near the house, which I'm told is evidence that people south of here had an influence on the inhabitants here, since this type of court is more common in Mexico, and this is the northernmost example of this type.

In our opinion, this is the most interesting feature of all: a natural blowhole. This little stone structure was built around a small hole in the ground that connects to a larger cavern underground. When we visited, the pressure inside the cavern was higher than the pressure at the surface so air was rushing out of the hole at 20 to 30 mph. If you look closely, you can see the hair around the girls' faces being blown back by the breeze coming out of the hole. We thought about it too late to try, but it would be neat to see if the air would levitate a hat released above it.

Here's a little description of the conditions that create this geologic feature.

For this last image of this post we head back into Flagstaff where we discovered a rare fast food combination: Taco Bell and Long John Silvers in the same building. We've seen LJS and A&W, TB and KFC, but this is the first time we've run into the long-sought TB & LJS combination. We ate here twice. Thanks for visiting!


  1. I'm with Gretel... I was wondering if perhaps the rocks might have served some kind of furniture-like function. Or maybe one could build a fire around/under one of these large boulders in order to heat them, with the idea that they would retain the heat for a lengthy period of time, and maybe be a sort of heater? Wild guesses here! It is fun to think of possibilities though isn't it☺

  2. I have been to the Taco Bell side of that fast food restaurant in Flagstaff...I remember us thinking the same thing..."odd combination".

  3. Ok, now that looks really neat!!

    That must have been a very interesting experience to live in those buildings.... Though I'm sure it is much better than living without a roof over your head!

    So... was the air coming out of the cavern warmer than the surface air, or was it colder?

  4. My take on the boulders-in-rooms: maybe when they were building the house, there happened to be some big boulders on the building site, and it was just too troublesome to move them, so they decided to embrace them as decor. Ok, so it's a lame idea, but can you come up with anything better?

    If you ever want to go to a Long John Silvers/Taco Bell combo restaurant, you don't have to go all the way to Arizona... you can come visit us. We have one about 10 minutes from us. By my calculation, that's a mite closer to home.

    P.S. I appreciate the non-graph-or-chart-or-corn-related posts.

  5. Diane -- I suppose I could pursue an expert opinion on the matter, but wild guesses are more our style.

    John -- you may have missed the fact that we've been looking for this combination for awhile, and we think having Taco Bell and Long John Silvers in the same building is as close to fast food paradise as you can get!

    Emil -- as we recall, the air temperature coming out of the ground was very close to the ambient air temp, which was in the low 50s.

    Kathryn -- having a LJS/TB combination close to your house is just one more reason for us to come visit! I'd advise you to enjoy these non-chart, non-corn posts while they last because this blog may soon revert to its former repertoire.

  6. Well, by all means come visit, and if you would like to enjoy the "Fast food paradise," we'll drop you off and pick you back up after we go eat at Olive Garden. :-) Sorry, but greasy fish and tacos in the same building just has no appeal to my tastebuds.