May 2, 2018, the first day of our GCAS international field trip to archaeological and historic sites in Chihuahua, Mexico, was windy and action-packed. We hiked for about 1/3 mile from La Cueva de la Olla crossing a shallow stream and the valley floor, up a short, steep path to the cave and cliff dwellings of La Cueva de la Golondrina ("Cave of the Swallow"). Occupation of this site has been dated to roughly 1000-1050 CE; somewhat more recent and for a shorter duration than La Cueva de la Olla. (h/t Marcia Corl for far left image.)
One of the structures in La Cueva de la Golondrina (see photo over here on the right) was built in a unique cylindrical shape, yet it and the other more conventional, rectangular-shaped adobe rooms at this site used the same defensive techniques of small ventilation windows and narrow, low, T-shaped doorways that seem typical of cliff dwellings of this era throughout northwest Mexico and southwest US.
Facing the cave, the cliff dwellings on the far left appeared more intact than those at La Cueva de la Olla; their walls extended all the way to the cave's roof. Slim rows of latillas in the upper parts of small ventilation windows remained in place despite graffiti etched into the surrounding adobe. Steps carved into the sloping rock were still usable to climb up to the cave floor (see photo on far left). The fine sand of the cave floor itself appeared uniformly flat and smooth, even into the cave's furthermost recesses.
Facing the cave along its upper right side, a long panel of white-painted pictographs came into view.
There are as many interpretations of pictographs as there are people who view them. Opinions differ even among highly esteemed archaeologists. Some of the avocational archaeologists in our tour group that day saw shield designs where others saw clan symbols. We almost universally interpreted certain other pictographs as astronomical images. Still others, like the reversed-mirror image seen toward the far right of the panel, remain a mystery to us all.
...to be continued in Part III...