Dates of visit:
May 15, 2003
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Into two canyons
|Archeological evidence shows that people have lived in these canyons for nearly 5,000 years longer than anyone has lived uninterrupted anywhere on the Colorado Plateau. The first residents built no permanent homes, but remains of their campsites and images etched or painted on the canyon walls tell us their series. Later, people we call Basketmaker built household compounds, storage facilities, and social and ceremonial complexes high on ledges in the walls of the canyons. They lived in small groups, hunted game, grew corn and beans, and created paintings on the walls that surrounded them.
The ancient Puebloan people followed. Predecessors of today's Pueblo and Hopi Indians, they are often called Anasazi: a Navajo word meaning ancient enemy. These Puebloan people built the multi-storied villages, small household compounds, and kivas with decorated walls that dot the canyon alcoves and talus slopes. About 700 years ago most of these people moved away, but a few of them remained in the canyons. Later, migrating Hopi Indians and other tribes spent the summers hunting and farming here. Finally, at the end of a long journey, the Navajo arrived. They built homes in the canyon, learned new crafts and new ways of farming, and added their own designs to the walls of this ancient gallery.
The labyrinth called Canyon de Chelly (pronounced d'SHAY) is really several canyons, which include Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto. At the mouth of the canyon the rock walls are only 30 feet high. Deeper into the canyons, to the east, the walls rise dramatically until they reach more than 1,000 feet above the floor The cliffs rise straight up, overshadowing the streams, cottonwoods, and small farms below. It has taken about 2 million years and volumes of water to etch these stone paths through the layers of sandstone and igneous rock as the Defiance Plateau pushed its way upward. Today, the canyon still beckons with its towering stone monoliths and ledges bearing the open windows of ancient people.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument was established in 1931 to preserve archeological ruins within these canyons and their important record of human history. Embracing nearly 84,000 acres within the Navajo Reservation, the monument is administered by the National Park Service - Jut, Tsegi-these rock canyons - belongs to Dine, the Navajo people.
|Site Gallery - Canyon de Chelly
|All text source extracted from official map and guide of the National Park Service.