A Spanish explorer, standing on the edge of the vast badlands of northeastern Arizona, saw a landscape painted with the colors of the sunset (hence its enduring name The Painted Desert). But even a surrealist wouldn’t imagine this trippy expanse– striped and bumped and sprinkled with petrified logs some 200 million years old.
Of the stories subsumed in the stratified layers, some surface: like the Agate House, built by ancestral Puebloan people sometime between 1050 and 1300. The scarcity of artifacts suggests a brief occupancy belying an original plan: the size and scale of the ambitious construction – eight rooms made of medium- to large-petrified logs transported to the top of a knoll – means the Agate House was most likely conceived as a single-family, year-round dwelling amid a neighborhood of such structures (long disappeared). So why abandoned so quickly?
The silhouette of the Agate House can be seen long before you arrive by way of a paved trail cutting through the Petrified Forest National Park. Like a lighthouse or beacon, beckoning, warning. Eerie in its abandoned beauty, the house is a jewel of memory amid geologic chaos now calm, painted.