A Civilization's Home in the Cliffs
The Mesa Verde Dwellings are some of the most notable and best preserved archeological sites in the North American Continent. Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Puebloans began living in pueblos they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. The structures ranged in size from one-room storage units to villages of more than 150 rooms.
While still farming the mesa tops, the Puebloans continued to reside in the alcoves, repairing, remodeling, and constructing new rooms for nearly a century. By the late 1270s, the population began migrating south into present-day New Mexico and Arizona. By 1300, the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of Mesa Verde ended.
Five of the most impressive cliff dwelling sites include:
- Balcony House – is reachable by climbing a 32-foot ladder and crawling through a short tunnel.
- Cliff Palace – has more than 150 rooms occupying a deep alcove beneath a canyon rim.
- Long House - was excavated between 1959 and 1961 as part of the Wetherill Mesa Archeological Project.
- Spruce Tree House - is the best preserved cliff dwelling in all of Mesa Verde National Park.
- Step House - shows evidence of two occupations taking place in one location.
Cliff dwelling tours vary from independent self-guided tours to ranger-led walking tours. Comprehensive, interpretive, half-day guided bus tours feature a variety of sites, including Cliff Palace.
To learn more about these fascinating cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park, visit the National Park Service website.