After squeezing between the last few boulders on the foot trail, the Painted Hand Pueblo finally comes into view. The moderately difficult back country trail is described in a previous article and this mysterious ancient pueblo is the reward for the physical effort! The Painted Hand Pueblo definitely is a place where few mainstream tourists go, so some peace and quiet can be found at this native heritage site. Listening to the breeze gently whisper through the piñon and juniper trees will kindle thoughts of the harmonious existence this sacred place sustained long ago. Painted Hand certainly is a special experience, so be prepared to spend some extra time pondering over the significance while there.
A wealth of background information about the Painted Hand Pueblo can be found at the Canyons Of The Ancients Visitor Center. The more you know before you go, the more fulfilling the experience will be. Painted Hand was constructed during the peak pueblo building phase in this region somewhere between 600 to 1,000 years ago and all of the pueblo complexes are interconnected. Some pueblo sites were devoted to agriculture and living quarters, while the purpose of others is more difficult to explain. There actually are structures that are solely devoted to spiritual practices and astronomical observatories, while some simply served as defensive lookout towers. The food storage structures tend to be the most well hidden and there are plenty of examples of this design to be found in both Hovenweep and Canyons Of The Ancients. In fact, if a map to Painted Hand did not exist, the chances are good that no visitors would ever find this well hidden little pueblo.
The Painted Hand Pueblo is perched on a rock outcrop on the steep canyon wall and this certainly is a picturesque sight to see. The round tower structure looks ominously tall when viewed from down below the rock shelf, which is the first vantage point to be encountered at the end of the trail. Underneath the tower structure overhang are a few more sheltered rooms that look as if they served a utilitarian purpose. Along this rock wall is where the ancient painted hand pictographs can be viewed. The sun faded painted hands are difficult to see on a bright sunny day and photographing these ancient marvels is even more of a challenge.
The ancient pictographs are the namesake of this small pueblo structure and the painted hands are highly protected. Touching ancient rock art is forbidden, because the skin oils will speed up the decomposition process. Just like the ominous tower, the painted hands are for your eyes only and the memories will be more than enough to bring home. As can be seen in the photos, the Painted Hand Pueblo is definitely worth the moderately strenuous trek and peaceful harmony is the reward for venturing to this ancient sacred place!
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