Saturday, September 29, 2012

Centuries-old Cliff Dwellings

We returned to Mesa Verde to see more of the centuries-old cliff dwellings.

Our drive took us past some interesting small scenes: from the dead tree in stark contrast to the colors of fall in the background to

these reminders of the Long Mesa fire in 2002 to

a bee concentrating on a flower.

We arrived at the Spruce House overlook and caught a glimpse of these dwellings that have changed little in 700-800 years.

A short, winding trail took me closer to the dwellings.

I believe the area in front of the buildings in the next two photos is a courtyard. The three-story wall fronts about 20 small rooms used as bedrooms or work areas during inclement weather.

On favorable days, the families lived and worked on the rooftops or in the courtyards, where tasks, such as grinding grain (photo left) took place.

The ladder (shown below) descends about six feet into a kiva.

An open kiva is shown in the next two photos.

In modern Pueblos, groups of men and women form special societies to care for the spiritual needs of the village. These ceremonies, focused on concens from curing illness to ensuring favorable growing weather, take place in the kiva.

When no ceremonies are taking place, the kiva may be used as a work area or a social gathering place.

The hole in the center of the kiva was the firepit. Fresh air was drawn into the kiva from a ventilator shaft and would hit the deflector wall (which is shown between the firepit and the ventilator shaft opening at the floor) and circulate evenly around the kiva. Smoke would rise through the entryway (where the ladder is shown in the second photo above).

Spruce House is the third largest cliff dwelling among several hundred within the park boundaries. It was constructed between A.D. 1200 and 1276 and has about 114 rooms and eight kivas. It is thought to have been home for about 100 people.

The cave's ceiling and most building walls are covered with a heavy layer of soot, believed to be the result of fires burning 24 hours a day during the coldest months of the year.

Although it would seem that the location for the dwellings was selected for defensive purposes given the cliffs above the dwellings and the valley and cliffs opposite the dwellings (second photo below), but no evidence of hostile neighbors or warfare has yet been found.

Was it for protection from the elements? Archaeologists are just not sure, given that the people had lived on the Mesa Verde for well over seven hundred years by the time they began constructing the cliff dwellings.
It was hard to believe these remaining structures were over centuries old.

(Information selected from the booklet Spruce Tree House.)

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