The Towers of Hovenweep

Hovenweep Isn’t Far As the Crow Flies from Chaco Canyon

One of the things I love about the archaeology of the Southwestern U.S. are the many mysteries relating to the Anasazi, “The Old Ones.” A few days ago, I wrote about Chaco Canyon, which turned my mind to Hovenweep in Southeast Utah, which I visited twice. Hovenweep National Monument is out of the way, so it doesn’t receive as many visitors as Canyon de Chelly, Mesa Verde, or even Chaco Canyon.

The view east from Hovenweep is toward Sleeping Ute Mountain in Colorado. We are very close here to the Four Corners area, where the boundaries of four states come together: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. Here is the view of Sleeping Ute Mountain:

Sleeping Ute Mountain in Nearby Colorado

I suspect that Hovenweep was at or near the boundary with some other ancient people. Why else would they feel the need to construct towers, which look as if they were intended for self-defense. The ruins are built around a tiny canyon which is crossed by the trail that surrounds the site. Here I suspect was the source of the water they needed in this dry area, though Martine and I did not see any when we were there.

As with most Anasazi ruins, there are a whole lot more questions than answers. (But isn’t that always the case?) The Anasazi left a lot of pictographs but no body of writing—and certainly no explanations. In their time (roughly from 200 BC to AD 1500—just before the Spanish showed up), they built a lot of interesting structures in the San Juan River valley that was their center. What happened to them? They probably became the Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico. They were probably forced to move from places like Chaco and Hovenweep because the drought that bedeviled them became chronic.

Surviving Wall of One of the Hovenweep Towers