Paleoindians walked across Hovenweep land some 11,000 years ago as they hunted mammoths and large bison. In about AD 400, the Puebloans farmers arrived in the valley. They were the ancestors of the modern Hopi and the modern Zuni of the Little Colorado River basin and Puebloans communities of the Rio Grande basin east of the San Juan. The desert lands filled with sage were once fertile fields where crops such as corn and squash grew.
According to Joe S. Sando, Pueblo Indian scholar from Jemez Pueblo, "The systematic raising of corn led to the shaping of Pueblo religion, with rituals and prayers for rain and other conditions favorable to crops. The need to know the proper time for planting, cultivating, and harvesting led to developments in astronomical observation. They studied the behavior of the sun, the moon, clouds, the wind, and the vernal equinox."
The Hovenweep pueblo style dwellings evolved some 1200 years ago ranging from round, square, and D-shaped towers at the head of canyons. The Hovenweep region is unlike the Aztec and Chaco Canyon where huge multi family dwellings were common. In those areas, five story buildings were common, but in Hovenweep, the buildings are single or extended family dwellings with no huge multi-hundred room pueblos.
Hovenweep was a rural farming community with spread out ruins, as farms are today in the Midwest, unlike the city villages of Chaco Canyon. Except for Little Ruin Canyon near the Visitor Center where some 500 families lived, the outer ruins of Cajon, Holly, Hackberry, and Cutthroat lie outside the Little Ruin Canyon. These outer ruins are reached by mud/rutted/wagon trails suitable for four-wheel drive vehicles, not for the low clearance of our Honda.
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