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Ancient Cliff Dwellings built of Sandstone and Mud Mortar Draw Modern Crowds

NO one knows why the ancestral Pueblo people abandoned Mesa Verde by 1300

Mesa Verde
Sometime during the late 1190s, after living atop the mesas for 600 years, many Ancestral Pueblo people began living in sandstone cities they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. VOA
  • Mesa Verde National Park in the southwestern part of the state, protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings built of sandstone and mud mortar
  • Because the dwellings are on the edge of a cliff, visitors get unprecedented views of the surrounding country
  • For seven centuries, starting around 1,500 years ago, the area was home to the Ancestral Pueblo people

June 27, 2017: After leaving the enchanting landscape of New Mexico, national parks traveler Mikah Meyer headed north into the state of Colorado, where he found more natural and manmade wonders.

Cliff Dwellings ‘on steroids’

His first stop was Mesa Verde National Park in the southwestern part of the state, which protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings built of sandstone and mud mortar. It is home to the largest, best-known and best-preserved cliff dwellings in North America.

Having visited the “impressive” Gila Cliff dwellings in New Mexico, Mikah said the ones at Mesa Verde were on a whole new level.

“They are 10 times bigger,” he said. “There are just so many ruins to look at, and hike to and from, and tour, that it’s basically a cliff dwelling site on steroids!”

Accompanied by a ranger, who was a family friend, he walked among the ancient structures, marveling at their beauty and architecture.

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Ancient culture

Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, is not only a beautiful national park site, but historically significant as well. For seven centuries, starting around 1,500 years ago, the area was home to the Ancestral Pueblo people.

Their culture spanned the present-day “Four Corners” region of the United States – which is where four states – Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah – meet. Today, that notable spot is a popular tourist destination, where visitors can literally place a limb in every state.

Back at the park, visitors can visit cliff dwellings of different sizes.

Balcony house — a 13th-century marvel

Tucked under a sandstone overhang, Mesa Verde’s Balconi House offers an ambitious tour. Accompanied by park rangers, visitors have to climb a 10-meter (32-foot) high ladder and squeeze through a tunnel to reach some of the main areas.

But their efforts are rewarded with close-up views of the massive structures — including 40 rooms and two ancient Kivas, circular structures that were typically used for religious and social gatherings.

In a National Park video about Mesa Verde, ranger Andrew Reagan says visitors to the sites can’t quite believe the existence of the dwellings.

“They come to this park and they first see the cliff dwellings and they think ‘that’s an impossible place to live.’ But as soon as you climb that ladder and you’re inside the North Plaza, it all makes sense. They look around at the beautiful walls and the balconies that still have their plasters on them and they think, ‘I could do this…this is a really comfortable space.’”

Also, as Mikah points out, because the dwellings are on the edge of a cliff, visitors get unprecedented views of the surrounding country. “You can go to the peak and have amazing 360-degree views of Shiprock [Mountain] in New Mexico and the Colorado valley and mountains and white capped mountains to your east.”

Long House

The second largest cliff dwelling in the park is Long House, and getting to it is another adventurous journey. A two-hour ranger-guided tour includes hiking for 3.6 kilometers (2.25 miles) and climbing two ladders.

During the tour, park rangers point out the nearby stream which provided fresh water for the people who lived here, and discuss their agricultural practices in the dry desert.

Cliff Palace

Another site, Cliff Palace, is the largest cliff dwelling, not only in Mesa Verde park but in all of North America. With 150 rooms and 21 kivas, people say it looks more like a city.

After visitors walk down a sandstone trail and climb up a 3-meter (10-foot) long ladder, they’re greeted with stunning examples of ancient architecture.

“And you get to look at each individually crafted block of sandstone that was crafted 800 years ago and realize how much time and energy the Pueblo Society invested in these sites,” according to ranger Reagan.

Mesa Verde was abandoned by 1300, and no one knows why. Some say it was due to a series of prolonged droughts, or possibly by over-farming, which hurt food production.

But the site remains an attractive destination for visitors seeking beauty and ancient history. “They built these sites so grand that they were drawing people in from all over, 800 years ago,” Reagan said.

And 800 years later, the UNESCO World Heritage Site continues to draw visitors from all over, like Mikah Meyer.

He invites you to learn more about his travels across America by visiting him on his website, Facebook and Instagram. (VOA)

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10 Indian Sites That Got UNESCO World Heritage Tag

Maharashtra now has a total of five sites – more than any other state in India

10 Indian sites that got UNESCO World Heritage tag
10 Indian sites that got UNESCO World Heritage tag. IANS

— By Sonali Pimputkar 

Mumbai’s rich bunch of Victorian and Art Deco buildings in the Fort and Marine Drive precinct on Saturday, June 30, got the UNESCO World Heritage tag, giving India its 37th site. The precinct was added to the global list at the 42nd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Manama, Bahrain. It covers an area of 66 hectares with Oval Maidan at the centre and includes a row of 19th-century Victorian buildings on one side while the 20th-century art deco structures on the other. There has been a universal praise for the team who represented Mumbai’s case to UNESCO. With this Mumbai gets its third UNESCO heritage tag – joining the Elephanta Caves and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (headquarters of the Central Railway). Maharashtra now has a total of five sites – more than any other state in India – including the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Aurangabad. India is home to 37 World Heritage Sites approved by UNESCO which brings cultural and natural glory to the country. Here’s a look at 10 heritage sites of India that got the UNESCO world heritage tag before the Mumbai Art Deco buildings.

  • Capitol Complex of buildings, ChandigarhChandigarh Capital Complex is a government compound designed by the architect Le Corbusier and is spread over an area of around 100 acres. It comprises of three buildings, three monuments and a lake, including the Palace of Assembly, Secretariat, the signature Open Hand Monument, Geometric Hill, Tower of Shadows and Punjab and Haryana High Court building. The site got the UNESCO World Heritage tag in 2016.
  • Rock Shelters at Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh

    Located 45 km South of Bhopal at the Southern edge of the Vindhya hills, the area is covered with thick vegetation, natural shelters and rich flora and fauna. The shelters were discovered in 1957 and were added to heritage list in 2003. The name ‘Bhimbetka’ has been associated with ‘Bhima’, the hero-diety of Mahabharata and the name literally means ‘sitting place of Bhima’. The place is a magnificent repository of rock paintings within natural rock shelters. These paintings depict man’s experimentation with creativity and belong to different prehistoric periods, including Late Paleolithic Period i.e. Old Stone Age that consists of large representations of rhinoceroses and bears. Paintings from Mesolithic i.e. Middle Stone Age consists of animals and human activities, Chalcolithic i.e. early Bronze Age consists of agriculture, early historic and medieval consists of religious motifs and tree gods.

    Bhimbetka. IANS
  • Rani ki Vav, Gujarat

    Located on the banks of Saraswati river, Rani ki Vav (Queen’s step well) was built in 11th century AD in memory of King Bhimdev I. Stepwells are a distinctive form of water storage systems that have been in existence since the 3rd millennium BC. Rani ki Vav is designed into seven levels of stairs with more than 500 principle sculptures and over thousand mythological and religious works. The site has also been felicitated with the ‘Cleanest Iconic Place’ title by the Indian Sanitation Conference (INDOSAN) in October 2016.

  • Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat

    Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is located around the Pavagadh hill and is known for its archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage properties. The history of this site dates back from the 8th to 14th centuries. The park is studded with eleven different types of buildings including temples, mosques, tombs, wells, walls and more.


  • Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka

    The heritage site is named as ‘Group of Monuments at Pattadakal’ by UNESCO as it houses nine Hindu temples and a Jain sanctuary that portrays an amalgamation of architectural features of Northern (Nagara) and Southern (Dravida) India. Eight among the nine temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva and the ninth is Papanatha Temple, a Shaivite sanctuary. Apart from the major temples, several small Shiva shrines are seen here.

    Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka
    Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka. IANS
  • Khajuraho Group of Monuments, Madhya PradeshKhajuraho Group of Monuments are popular for its artistic magnificence rather than religious aspects. The site comprises of 22 temples. It is said that initially there were about 82 temples built. The temples belong to the Hindu and Jain community and have an amazing fusion of sculpture and architecture. Every evening the Khajuraho temple complex organises a light and sound show in the open lawns in English and Hindi. Besides, The Khajuraho Dance Festival is held every year in February that features classical Indian dances.
  • Khangchendzonga National Park, SikkimKhangchendzonga National Park (former Kanchenjunga National Park) also known as Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve is the first ‘Mixed Heritage’ site of India. Located in the Himalayan range, the park is home to plains, glaciers, lakes, and valleys. Animals like snow leopard, red panda, and musk deer are spotted here regularly. Besides, the park is home to several rare and threatened plants and animals.
  • Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara, BiharThe ancient Nalanda University or a large Buddhist monastery located in the Southeast of Patna was a centre for learning in the seventh century. The site comprises of stupas, shrines, viharas and several artworks in metal and stone. The site stands out as the most ancient university in the Indian subcontinent. It is also said that the site was an organised mediation of knowledge for over 800 years. The historical development of the site proves the development of Buddhism into a religion and its educational traditions.
  • Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Uttarakhand

    Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Uttarakhand
    Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Uttarakhand. IANS
  • The heritage sites comprise of two core areas -Nanda Devi National Park and the Valley of Flowers National Park -about 20 km apart. The Valley of Flowers is popular for its natural beauty and endemic alpine flowers. While the Nanda Devi National Park is known for its wilderness and spectacular topographical features including glaciers and moraines. Both the parks are blessed with a high diversity of flora and fauna, with a notable number of globally threatened species including Himalayan musk deer and various plant species.

    Also read: Indian Railways Will Promote Heritage Tourism By Preserving Its Metre-Gauge Tracks


  • Jantar Mantar, Rajasthan
  • Built by Maharaja Jai Singh II between 1727 and 1734, Jantar Mantar got the World Heritage tag in 2010. The cultural property has been inscribed as ‘an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period.’ Jai Singh II had constructed five Jantar Mantars at different locations – New Delhi, Jaipur, Mathura, Varanasi, and Ujjain.