Dean M. Chriss
Boulder House, Holly Ruins, Hovenweep National Monument
(Click image to enlarge)
Hovenweep is a Ute Indian word meaning "deserted valley". The towers of Hovenweep were built by ancestral Puebloans who occupied the Four Corners area from about A.D. 500 to A.D. 1300. Similarities in architecture as well as masonry and pottery styles indicate that the inhabitants of Hovenweep were closely associated with groups living at Mesa Verde and other nearby sites. The scale and craftsmanship apparent in the free-standing towers is truly amazing. The inhabitants of these canyons were excellent farmers who made use of persistent springs and dams to impound the water. It is thought that depletion of the scarce supply of wood that was used for fuel, and perhaps crop failure due to a prolonged drought, forced these people from the canyons and into areas further south.
The ancient ruins and rock art present here and in other areas is irreplaceable, priceless, and fragile. The act of entering a ruin can deteriorate it more than would a hundred of years of sitting undisturbed. Touching rock art, even lightly and only once, causes eventual staining from oils that are present in human skin. It can also cause flaking of the ancient paint. Small things have huge impacts over time that spans thousands of years. If you are fortunate enough to visit one of these places, please be extremely careful to leave it exactly as you found it.