Acoma Sky City

If you travel about 60 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, you’ll come upon a 367-foot sandstone bluff. Atop that bluff, you’ll glimpse a village. Acoma Sky City is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in America. Because of that, I’m really surprised that more people don’t know about it.

I had the opportunity to visit this magical place in 2005 when I was traveling around the American West, visiting various Anasazi ruins. The Anasazi, now called the Ancestral Puebloans, occupied this bluff, and the Puebloans themselves have been living there since at least the 13th Century.

That’s quite an achievement. It’s a great strategic location. From way up there you can see for miles in any direction. But it’s also a very isolated, desert landscape. To this day, the nearly 5,000 people who identify as Acoma live there without water, sewer, or electricity. All water is currently brought in by truck, and people use generators when they feel the need for power. There was no road access to the bluff until the 1950’s.

Even while living traditionally, modern life does have a tendency to creep in. While showing us one of the traditional kivas (their circular religious chambers), a tour guide told us that the men gather there for ceremonies, yes, but they’ve also been known to snake extension cords in through the windows from the generators so that they can watch the super bowl in peace. (I just love that story.)

While up there learning about Acoma’s rich history, you can visit many little shops that sell traditional pottery and food, and you can also check out the pretty San Esteban Del Rey mission and the cemetery.

The Acoma identify as Catholics, thanks to that mission, but they also incorporate a lot of ancient spiritual beliefs. The cemetery has holes in the wall so that the spirits can depart, for example. And the mission has corn painted on the walls, as the people are very focused upon agriculture and nature.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Acoma Sky City, I highly recommend it. Until then, I’ll leave you with some of the pictures I took in 2005.

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Rock Art Rocks!

I have always been a huge fan of aboriginal art, especially that of the ancestral Puebloans, formerly known as the Anasazi. Whether it be pictographs (paintings) or petroglyphs (images cut into stone), they all leave me mesmerized. I could gaze at this art for hours.

When I look at this ancient creativity, I feel transported to another time. I try to imagine the artist. Was it a man or a woman or a child? What message was that person trying to send? Was it meant to be spiritual, or a warning, or informational, or simply decorative? Why did he or she choose this particular spot to work on?  (More to the point, with all the flat rock surfaces throughout Utah, why is there not more rock art? I want more!)

There are several opportunities to view rock art in the Moab, Utah area. The first I got to see was this petroglyph of longhorn sheep and men on horseback that is located behind the Wolfe Ranch in Arches National Park. This, to me, says that people have worked and hunted on this land for centuries. We humans do have a tendency to want to make our marks.


The next opportunity was not far from the park’s entrance. It is a panel called Courthouse Wash. Sadly, it’s very faded, because some fools decided to vandalize it, and park rangers had to clean it up. This removed a lot of the stunning pigment. (Why do so many people enjoy destroying things? Why? I will never understand that urge.) Click the link in this paragraph to see images of it before it faded.


This panel depicts all manner of strangely shaped people, some with horns. If anything makes me think we’ve been visited by beings from other planets, it’s this art. Were these their Gods? Or were these peyote-influenced visions? Perhaps they were attempting to scare off intruders. It’s all been lost to time. Beneath this panel was a petroglyph of still more other-worldly creatures. I kept thinking that I was standing on the very spot where the artists once stood. I could have reached out and touched this work, but I didn’t want to damage it.


Next, thanks to my highly observant brother-in-law, who saw a notation on the edge of the park map that said, “Petroglyphs, 5 miles,” we went on an adventure down Scenic Byway 279, toward Potash. That was fun. We passed dozens of rock climbers scaling the cliffs, and then finally reached a spot where they are not allowed to climb for very good reason. I’ve never seen such a long stretch of petroglyphs in my life, including some that look like a string of paper dolls, and another that was a hand print. Amazing. I will leave you with my photographs, which definitely do NOT do the Potash Panel justice. Enjoy!

(While doing research for this post, I discovered that there are dinosaur tracks near the Potash Panel that I completely missed! That’s what I get for not doing my homework. There is also a very impressive bear petroglyph that we couldn’t find for some reason, but you can see it in the Potash Panel link.)


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