In a nutshell, from what I gleaned from my study, scientists
believe that volcanic eruptions are a key process in the
Earth's dynamics. They do not signify anything out of the
ordinary. A volcanic event happens when there is a sudden
(or even a continuing) release of energy caused by surface
movement. This pent-up energy is oft associated with the
movement of tectonic plates.
There's volcanic activity under the ocean as well as on land.
Much of the ocean floors consist of rocks derived from lava
during the last 200 million years. And on land a volcano is
usually a mound or hill or mountain that serves as a vent, a
conduit that extends from the Earth's upper mantle. And
when energy is released, material can be carried into the
The volcanos at Bandelier erupted over a million years ago.
Venting fully their magna, these volcanos collapsed--leaving
what is called a "caldera," which is a gigantic crater. There's
also cliff walls composed of rock made out of volcanic residue.
And the Anasazi "Longhouse," near the Bandelier entrance
is such a wall, where these ancient Indians built their cave
homes. They also built houses out of brick that they made
out of this volcanic residue.
After I began to understand the connection between the natural
environ of Bandelier and the Anasazi, it was deemed time to
review the history of these mysterious Indians.
Traced back even before the first millennium c.e., the Anasazi
culture spanned over parts of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and
Arizona. Early on they were basketmakers, then accomplished
farmers. By the mid-16th century c.e., these ancient Indians
had seemed to have disappeared. Scholars have wondered
whether drought may have caused them to leave, looking for
new regions where they might continue farming. Or, perhaps a
drought caused starvation--and maybe the Anasazi might have
warred upon one another, until they just simply were no more.
Regardless the disappearance of the Anasazi, contemporary
Pueblo, Hopi, and Zuni tribes consider themselves descendants
of the Anasazi. And--nowadays--they much prefer to refer to
their ancient ancestors as "Ancestral Pueblans."
As for the Anasazi sites at Bandelier, archaeologists and other
scholars have determined that several hundred Anasazi farmers
lived in a pueblo on the valley floor as well as the cave dwellings
in the cliffs. The cliff dwellings were dug out of what is called the
"Longhouse," which is approximately 800 feet in length. Culturally
speaking, besides a reconstructed kiva, there are also ancient
decorations in some of these cliff dwellings, and the ceilings are
still blackened with the soot of Anasazi fires for cooking and warmth.
Scholars believe that the Anasazi settlers at Bandelier likely
are remnants of the Chaco Culture Anasazi, situated earlier in
New Mexico--at what today is known as the "Four Corners" of the
States of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Not a readily
accessible location, I nonetheless was told that it was time to spend
a few weeks training at the Chaco Culture National Historical Park--
administered by the National Park Service. It's the locale of
the great cultural and ceremonial center of the ancient Anasazi.