Archeologists have determined that various peoples have been living in Canyon de Chelly for 5000 years. The structures I photographed here, known as The White House, were built approximately 1000 years ago and were occupied for another 300 years, until the builders decided to move on for reasons unknown... perhaps over population, lack of food supply, drought, or just feeling the need to move, we will never know for sure.
Although administered by the National Park Service, mainly to preserve what is left of these valuable sites, the canyon and surrounding area are completely owned by the Navajo people, many of whom still reside here in the canyon during the summers, running small farms and living in traditional Hogans (round, low profile log cabin-like structures.) Closed to outsiders unless accompanied by a Navajo Guide, horses and cattle wander around freely among orchards and small fields, making it seem a pastoral and peaceful place now, but there is a long and complex history of struggle and violence in the whole of the southwest.. some of the most important of it happened right here. I'll get into a bit of that in another post.
This particular ruin is the only site down inside the canyon that you can visit on your own, by hiking down from the rim. The accompanying photo looking out over one section of the canyon, which you can click for a detailed view, was taken at dawn from the spot on the rim where the trail begins. I'm including it here as a good scene to put the place in some kind of context.. I took it while waiting for the sun to come up enough to start down the trail; my theory was to get down and back before it got too hot since there is no shade and the days were running in the 100° range, but I ended up having to endure it anyway because I spent so much time at the bottom shooting the ruins. The trail is about 1.5 miles and 500 ft. elevation gain which is not too bad, but with the heat and having to carry my photo gear, I was complaining to myself at the start back up when I met an old Navajo lady, at least in her late 70's and probably older, dressed in a colorful full length skirt and wearing a jacket even in such heat, hiking down all by herself. She seemed to be fine and happy, so I had to tell myself that if she can do it at her age, I should be able to make it up without complaining.
I decided on a black and white treatment for this image due to the way it highlights the textures of the rock and especially the dark streaks of desert varnish trailing down the sheer rock face from high above.