The contemporary Pueblo people from Hopi. Zuni and Rio Grande Pueblos are the descendants of the Ancestral Pueblo people of Mesa Verde and their cultures are the only concrete evidence the archeologists have about these people. They lived in agricultural communities on top of the mesas for all most of their 900 years here. The last 90 years they moved to cliff dwellings and there are conflicting opinions as to why they moved. By 1350 AD they had all migrated to other parts of the southwest - again- no one knows why.
These cliff dwellings are engineering wonders. Built under enormous cliff overhangs, they are several stories high with multiple rooms and common areas. Mesa verde has hundreds of ancient Pueblo communities, but only a few are open to the public.
First we visited the largest cliff house called "Cliff Palace"with over 100 rooms. Controlled Ranger tours only. We had to negotiate a lot of stairs and a few 15 foot ladders to get there but it was fine.
There are 23 "Kivas" or ceremonial rooms which are below ground level. They would have had a roof back then. Each was probably used by a different extended family.
This is a wider view of cliff Palace
In the afternoon, we visited "Balcony House" which required a bit more courage. After a steep walk and some steps, you have to climb a 32 foot ladder- two by two. ( yes, kids did this)
Another great site- notice three stories in the buildings.
In order to leave we had to crawl 12 feet on hands and knees through a tunnel ( no photo- butt too big)
and then climb up a ladder to ancient hand carved foot holds to get to the exit. Ok- Joy survived because there were chains on both sides to hold on to and anyway, there was no other way out.
Today we visited Long House and Step House which are similar but different from the other two. The rangers are really interesting and all tell the stories slightly differently. One of the theories about why they moved to the Cliff is that dendrology of trees indicates a 25 year drought. The sandstone cliffs have "seeps" where they could have accessed water. This is one at the far back of Long house. There are collector bowls and small channels carved into the rocks.
Tomorrow we start the journey home with an evening meal with our nephew Jake in Denver. We have to backtrack to Moab to take a different route home but it won't be bad. The terrible fires in Colorado have cause road closures in several areas.
We will stop in Kansas and twice in Ohio and then we are HOME! Hopefully July 1.