National Geographic : 1957 Aug
recorded their stopover on Inscription Rock. "Visitors often pore over the American names looking for great-grandfathers," Don told us. "Some find them, too." 700-year-old Pueblo Crowns Mesa An easy trail mounts the mesa wall. We followed Don to a point some 200 feet above the surrounding land. From the ground, El Morro had seemed a solid chunk of rock. Once scaled, it revealed itself as a hollow shell (page 242). A box canyon wedges into its heart, leaving two wide walls of mesa to form a V. Standing at this apex, among castlelike turrets, we gazed on what explorer Simpson called the "circuit of prairie, beautifully tasty." A sudden shower blew over us, leaving the mesa top gleaming with small pools of captive water. Don reminded us that these natural "bathtubs" supplied water for the two Indian villages that once thrived on opposite walls of the mesa. He led us to the larger ruin. We stared down at roofless dwellings, storage rooms, and kivas of a pueblo that had once held a thriving community (page 243). Scattered fragments of brightly colored pot tery lay underfoot-refuse of centuries ago, now important clues for archeologists. That night we met Dr. Richard B. Wood bury, associate professor of anthropology at Nature Chiseled El Morro's Buttress; 4 Men Carved History on Its Flank This weathered butte towers more than 200 feet above the surrounding plateau. Its base bears hun dreds of inscriptions, fragmentary records of the primitive history of the Southwest and its exploration and settlement by Europeans. Long before the time of Coronado, Indians cut petroglyphs-human and animal figures-on El Mor ro's face. Spanish conquistadors and priests traveling from the Rio Grande to the western pueblos wrote "Pas6 por aqui" (passed by here) with 17th-century flourishes (page 244). United States Army detach ments and westbound emigrants caught the idea and left graven records of their passing. El Morro (The Headland) came to be known as Inscription Rock. Carvings extend around its tip for more than 1,200 feet, many higher than a man can reach on horseback. Lt. James H. Simpson and Richard H. Kern, scout ing Navajo country for the U. S. Army in 1849, left their autographs on the stone album-the earliest United States signatures now visible (left). To preserve the mesa and its surroundings as part of America's heritage, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed it a national monument in 1906. © National Geographic Society Willard R. Culver (right), and Ralph Gray, National Geographic Staff Columbia University, and his wife, who teaches the same subject at Barnard College. As a team, they have been excavating El Morro's ruins since 1954. Dr. Woodbury named the large site "At sinna" at the suggestion of Zufii workmen. The name, which means "printing," is an apt one for El Morro. We were surprised to learn that the pueblo had risen as high as three stories, with possibly 500 rooms. From their excavations the Woodburys deduce that Atsinna was built early in the 13th century and gradually abandoned late in the 14th. Mystery Shrouds Earliest Inhabitants Why did its people leave? Dr. Woodbury suggests that a series of cool summers and late spring frosts kept the village farmers from getting a decent crop of corn. At any rate, Atsinna was deserted when the Spaniards came, and the conquistadors in their turn were gone when the Americans took over. But the three cultures intermingle today in the ghosts that hover about El Morro. Moonlight shrouded the cliff as I took a last walk along its base. The brooding land mark loomed above me, weirdly pale. It took no imagination at all to hear furtive scraping sounds and to see dim figures at work, leaving brave, flamboyant, wistful marks on this great stone page of history.