Subject: Re: Ancient cultures?
Hi Frances,

The replies you've had regarding interesting sites of ancient cultures have been excellent. Those mentioned in the American Southwest could easily be incorporated into a 10 day to 2 week driving vacation through the states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. In addition to Canyon de Chelly National Monument (Az.) and Bandelier National Monument (N.M.) which have already been mentioned, you could visit Chaco Canyon National Monument (N.M.), Mesa Verde National Park (Co.), Hovenweep National Monument (Ut.), and Taos Pueblo (N.M.) to name just a few. The American Southwest is replete with the remnants of ancient cultures ranging from the grand scale of the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde to the enigmatic petroglyphs such as Newspaper Rock in the Petrified Forest of Arizona. The added plus of visiting these sites is the incredibly beautiful setting in which one find's them. As you drive between these sites you'll be able to visit and see incredible natural wonders such as Monument Valley, Natural Bridges National Monument, the Painted Desert, Canyonlands and Arches National Monument, and the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountains. Cities and towns within the area include Phoenix, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, and Durango.

Further south in Mexico you would be able to see the remnants of some of the world's greatest cultures. And not all of these can be considered ancient. After all, the city of Tenochtitlán (present-day Mexico City) was at its grandest when first visited by Cortez in 1521. Widely believed by historians to be the largest city in the world at that time, the grandeur of Tenochtitlán was mind-boggling to the Spanish soldiers, who mostly came from the rural province of Extremadura. Cortez' historian, Bernal Diaz, in his book The True History of the Conquest of New Spain described a marketplace like none imaginable to the European mind.

Alas, the conquistors razed the city and colonial Mexico City was built in its place. Still, portions of Tenochtitlán remain, surrounded by the megalopolis of Mexico City. And probably the world's finest collection of pre-Columbian art and relics can be visited at the Museum of Anthropology in Chapultepec Park. A visit to Mexico City would be incomplete without seeing Teotihuacán with its Pyramids of the Sun, the Moon, and Quetzalcoatl. As impressed as the Spanish were with Tenochtilán, so were the Aztecs impressed with Teotihuacán which translates from the Nahuatl language into City of Gods.

Of course, these ruins in the Valley of Mexico are just the tip of the iceberg when exploring the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica. From here one can continue their exploration with the Toltec city of Tula, the Tarascan complex at Tzintzuntzan, the Mixtec and Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban and Mitla in the state of Oaxaca, the Olmec ruins of La Venta, and ultimately the lowland Mayan cities of Uxmal and Chichen-Itza of the Yucatan, and the highland Mayan ruins of Palenque.

Frances, once you've had a taste of these spectacular civilizations you'll find yourself wanting more. Next you'll be thinking of visiting Tikal and Bonampak in Guatemala and Honduras. Then someone will suggest that the Incas were actually the most sophisticated of New World cultures. And the next thing you know you'll find yourself on a mountain in exotic Peru gazing over the magnificent city of Machu Picchu.

No Frances, it's not necessary to leave the hemisphere nor even your own continent to find spectacular ruins and civilizations that rival those of the Old World.

John in San Diego