The spirituality of Chaco Canyon is something that most visitors become familiar with long before they arrive. It is the spirituality that inspires some people to visit the ancient heritage sites of the Southwest, especially during troubled times. Chaco Canyon once was quite an extensive cultural center and this sacred place has always been a pilgrimage site.
Chaco Canyon was a great cultural and agricultural center in ancient times. Chaco was also a place of learning, teaching and ceremonial events. Astronomy was a tradition that the Chacoan culture was adept at practicing and much of the archaeological evidence in this canyon confirms this point. Several Chacoan great house pueblos were constructed in this canyon over 1,000 years ago and a sizable population lived in this place. It is said that many years of severe drought was the reason why the pueblos were abandoned, while others claim that it is still a mystery.
When touring Chaco Canyon, there is a nine mile paved road loop that goes by several of the ancient great house pueblos along the base of the mesa cliffs on both sides of this canyon. The roadside pueblos require no special permits to visit and it will take at least one full day to tour them all. The ancient pueblos that are located further away in the back country do require permits to visit. The permitting process just involves brief registration paperwork, which helps to protect the ancient sites, so it is really no bother to do. Some of the back country pueblo hikes are an all day affair, so overnight camping among the ancients at Chaco is the best option for those who want to get an early start.
When touring the 9 Mile Loop Road on the floor of the canyon, the second Chacoan great house pueblo along the way is Hungo Pavi. This ancient great house is located next to Una Vida. There is a roadside parking area and a short hiking trail that is only a few hundred yards long. Even though the distance to the pueblo is short, it is best to pack water for the hike, because there will be plenty of walking and pondering to do around the extensive Hungo Pavi grounds.
Hungo Pavi is an unrestored ancient archaeological site, so it does require a bit of imagination to picture what this big building must have looked like way back when. The great house pueblos were public buildings and each room served a communal function, so a visitor can imagine what each room was used for. For those who do take the time to wonder, the Hungo Pavi great house had 150 rooms and part of the structure was over four stories tall, so that is a lot of architectural functionality to ponder over!
Because Hungo Pavi has not been excavated, much of this pueblo still lies in state and the pieces of the thin sandstone building materials are laying about on top of the ground. This is why it is important to stay on the trail when visiting this ancient heritage site. Just like the old saying goes, if you treat the home of the ancestors with respect, the ancestors will look highly upon you!
Each ancient great house pueblo in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park offers an opportunity to learn something new. As a visitor goes from one pueblo to the next, the pieces of the puzzle start to come together and by the end of the venture an overview can be attained. Hungo Pavi pretty much stands alone in this section of the canyon in this modern age, but foot paths once connected each of the great houses in ancient times. Hungo Pavi is impressive to see up close and this ancient great house pueblo truly is a learning experience!
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