Captain's Log 1XE, Day 5 in the month of October in the Earth Calendar Year of 2014.
A day with the ancients.
Following a road from the air 1,000 feet above ground level is something we used to do on a daily basis, especially before the advent and routine use of GPS. So when the archaeologist onboard said fly to the Twin Angel Great House and follow the Great North Road south, I thought "piece of cake".
The Great North Road leads south down to Chaco Canyon and was the main "thoroughfare", not just for trading and a means to get to other Great Houses like Pierre's Complex (discovered in the 1970s) along the way, but was also thought to be an ancient Pueblo religious pathway leading to their place of origin and along which the spirits of the dead travel.
What our onboard archaeologist failed to point out to me was that the road was 30 feet wide, nearly 1,000 years old, and now lays in the midst of a spider web network of oil and gas exploratory well sites. Back to the good old GPS.
The Twin Angel Great House is one of the smaller of the Great Houses, with only 17 rooms (some had hundreds), and while a bit difficult to spot from the air, you can see how it was strategically located, and can imagine the similarities to the placing of Medieval castles. The road goes due north on an unusually straight line given the year of "construction", over mesas and through washes where it ends up in Chaco. Seven other roads lead into and out of Chaco, like an ancient interstate system. And then there is Chaco itself, which in the early 1000s had become the ceremonial, administrative, and economic center of the San Juan Basin.
The Partnership for Responsible Business, an educational arm of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce, sponsored our overflights to show the value of this special landscape to business owners, tribal leaders, and journalists. The flights were very compelling, and generated many news stories.
If you have the opportunity to travel to Chaco it is a goldmine of archaeological information. It is inspiring and timeless. One of the most unique aspects of this National Historical Park is that it is classified as an International Dark Sky Park due to the lack of lights near and distant.
Our flight objective was to highlight New Mexico's treasured landscapes as the BLM is set to make two major decisions this coming year on drilling on public lands. The first decision will be on where, when and how the drilling will occur in areas that include wildlife habitat, cultural artifacts and sites important to the Pueblos and Navajo. The second decision will be on flaring and venting, and the associated waste and pollution. To literally illuminate these well sites that are flaring natural gas, we did a night flight.
It was a magnificent evening with calm air and clear skies; and it became even more obvious that drilling near these ancient, spiritual and archaeological gems will need to be carefully managed and requires a substantial comprehensive plan moving forward.