The Cliff Palace of Mesa Verde

Cliff Palace Mesa Verde

Cliff Palace Mesa Verde

In the walls of the canyons at Mesa Verde is the pueblo town. It is better known as the cliff palace. The inhabitants, the Anasazi built their palace between the years 1100 AD and 1275 AD. It was their crowning achievement.

The first people to the area were a hunter gatherer society known as the basket weavers. They wove baskets to help them with their simple way of life. This group existed at Mesa Verde from 1 AD to about 400 AD.

Next came the modified basket makers. They began to make pottery and build simple pit dwellings. They experimented with many building styles and finally ended with the pit houses or Kivas. This group inhabited the Mesa from 400 AD to about 750 AD.

About 750 AD the modified basket makers invented the bow and arrow. They began to build towns or Pueblos. Around 1100 AD these people found that if they built their towns in the ledges and shelves of the canyons they could keep out the desert heat and find shelter from the desert winds especially in winter. The narrow entrances to the communities also provided protection from other tribes that would attack the Pueblo builders. This last 175 years of the Pueblo builders were their golden age.

Around 1275 a drought began in the area. Each year the drought became worse and the area became a parched wasteland. The people could no longer stay in their cliff towns. Slowly the Pueblo builders drifted away and blended into the precolumbian cultures. After 25 years of drought the last of the pueblo builders left and the the cliff dwellings were abandoned. Over time the people of the cliffs were forgotten and only legends remained .

In 1765 the first European Don Juan Maria de Rivera traveled through the valley but it was not until 1875 that the cliff Palace was discovered. In 1891 the first official scientific investigation began under Swedish professor baron Gustaf Nordenskiold. He took some 600 items back to the Swedish museum in Helsinki.

In 1906 the area became a national park. In 1908 repair and excavation began. In 1959 to 1972 the whole plateau was excavated and cataloged. Today it is an area to visit and meditate on the existence of people of long ago. Today after a few years of drought we wonder will we survive if there is a long drought. Will our modern technology save us or will we have to abandon the desert and leave our dwellings behind. If that happened our abandoned dwellings would not survive 50 years let alone 700 years like the buildings at Mesa Verde.

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Resources

http://www.nps.gov/archive/meve/park_info/park_history.htm

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