By Len Wilcox
In the 1850s, farmers from the United States began a massive migration, crossing the continent first to the gold fields in Colorado and California then to the rich soil and abundant sunshine of the lowlands such as the San Joaquin. Along the way they infilled the plains and mountains, rapidly filling the country with land-hungry settlers.
But they weren’t the first farmers to till the soil of Western America. Indigenous natives have been farming here for thousands of years. Archeologists have found many places with traces of pre-Columbian agriculture. A particularly interesting one is east of Las Vegas, Nevada, in the Moapa River valley on the north side of the Grand Canyon.
It is the Pueblo Grande de Nevada, also known as the Lost City. The Pueblo was home to many different Indian groups but it was lost to time after the last group of Native Americans left several hundred years ago.
In 1924, it was rediscovered and archeological research began – but, in 1931, so did construction of Boulder Dam. The researchers rushed to save as much of the remnants as they could, but inevitably Lake Mead filled the once-lush valley. Much of the city and the nearby farming areas are under water now.
The investigation to date indicates that this pueblo is somewhat different than the more famous places to the east such as Mesa Verde or Chaco Canyon. Here, the evidence suggests that the Pueblo people – who we sometimes call the Anasazi – lived side by side with the Basketmakers, who had a very different ancestral history and culture. But at this site they lived peacefully together and often combined their ways of life.
The structures that remained for us to see are very elaborate, sometimes consisting of 20 rooms or more with one structure having more than 100 rooms.
The stone construction is sophisticated and the defensive positions are craftily placed. So many of the artifacts – going back a thousand or more years – are the handiwork of an intelligent and thoughtful people. It seems to me, if they’d developed the wheel and a written language, America would be a far different country today.
The state of Nevada has built the Lost City Museum just south of the town of Overton. The museum has static displays and lots of objects that were found in the area over the years. It’s a very informative stop located about 60 miles east of Las Vegas.
Thanks for this article. I’ve added the museum to my itinerary.
You are welcome, Sherry, and I hope you find the museum as fascinating as we did!