|Fossil wood fragments|
For the most part, it contained wood fragments in various states of coal. This area was once a swamp 78,000,000 years ago and this particular outcrop resembles a flood plain near the shoreline. A few animal burrows were found; bark-beetle tunnels in the wood and what might be ghost shrimp burrows in the sand. We found a good laurel leaf imprint, and a fossil that resembles an avocado (pending identification). If you want to give it a try, you can see a few photos posted to my G+ account.
At work, we focused on rare plant surveys this week. Three botanists from the Colorado Natural Heritage Program were here for their projects, and we tagged along. We found new populations of Aletes macdougalii (Indian Parsley), and mapped a few areas of Hackelia graclienta (Mesa Verde Stickseed). Intensive surveys of Astragalus schmolliae (Schmoll's Milkvetch) were also done. I also found time to assist the wildlife biologists with some fence repairs.
|Which room held the Macaws?|
Fortunately, Chaco is rich in mystery. The Great Houses were the largest buildings in North America for the past thousand years and were not surpassed in size until the early 1900's. They required 210,000 trees, most of which were cut, seasoned, and transferred over 50 miles. Why was this amazing place built in the middle of Nowhere, when they could've built it along the banks of the San Juan or Animas river? Just reaching Chaco on foot back then must've required a carefully prepared journey, so maybe the remoteness was to enforce purpose on those who wished to visit? They certainly didn't try to hide it, since huge effort went into creating 400 miles of ritual avenues that led to Chaco from many different directions. And this is just the beginning of questions about Chaco that continues to vex archeologists.
We spent out last day on hikes up to Pueblo Alto and down canyon to see more petroglyphs and a few more Great Houses. The wind really tore into us and we felt baked at the end of the day. I'm glad I didn't have to walk the Great North Road back to Mesa Verde! Now it's time to enjoy some Chacoan food: chocolate imported from central America!
|Farewell, Chaco Canyon!|