My Name Is ... Holly Velarde

Archaeologist has heartfelt connection to Southwest

Posted 11/5/18

Finding the truth I've always loved history. I loved historical fiction growing up. I was obsessed with the Civil War. I'd re-enact battles in my back yard. I love to find the truth of history — …

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My Name Is ... Holly Velarde

Archaeologist has heartfelt connection to Southwest

Posted

Finding the truth

I've always loved history. I loved historical fiction growing up. I was obsessed with the Civil War. I'd re-enact battles in my back yard. I love to find the truth of history — how the common man lived, not the “king's history,” as they say.

I went to the University of New Mexico so I could do a full semester of study at Chaco Canyon, a remote group of Native American ruins in northwest New Mexico. We camped out in the canyon. We excavated the Wetherill Trading Post, which was used around the turn of the 20th century.

'A great magic'

Spending time in Chaco, there was something unsettling about it, but there was a great magic too. The population was there much longer than whatever made them abandon it. There are a lot of theories. The Navajos tell a tale of a man called the Gambler, who infiltrated the harmonious society of the Chacoans, and turned it into Sodom and Gomorrah and made life terrible.

Dark chambers

Chaco Canyon was always a fascination of mine. Some people say the ruins were built by aliens, and I enjoy that stuff, but the ruins can be explained rationally in ways that are almost more interesting.

It's a mystical place. I had strange dreams while I was there. As researchers, we were allowed in places normal tourists aren't. We got to go in these dark chambers underneath the floor of the main ruin, and when I was in there, I got a strange menacing feeling. I wasn't the same person when I left.

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