Get outta town: The ancient ruins of Hovenweep

by Jessie O’Brien

Distance and travel time from Durango: 90 miles, 1 hour and 43 minutes by car.

The shell of an ancient civilization sits on the Utah-Colorado border. According to the National Park Service website, Hovenweep was first inhabited over 10,000 years ago as a place for Paleo-Indians, who would hunt and gather in the area following seasonal weather pattern. Puebloans made the site a permanent home for their farming community in 900 A.D.

While we can only imagine what civilization was like during this time, one thing we do know is that the ancestral Puebloans were skilled architects. Parts of the towers found on the site that were built between 1200 and 1300 A.D remain today. (Luckily, our McMansions and IKEA furniture are sure to leave zero trace of modern day America.) There are a variety of designs of the towers, as well as many ceremonial structures known as kivas.

According to the National Park Service website, there are are multiple theories as to what the towers were used for, such as celestial observatories, homes, storage, or defense structures. The name “Hovenweep” means “deserted valley” in Ute and Paiute. The ancient ghost town was dubbed this in the late 1800s. It is hypothesized that the community was forced to abandon their home due to warfare, along with a prolonged drought and lack of resources. The Puebloans migrated to New Mexico Little Colorado River Basin in Arizona.

The Pueblo, Zuni, and Hopi of today are descendants of this community.

Jessie O’Brien


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