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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

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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
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  • 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.

ALSO READHistorians Unearth Jain Inscription at Quilashpur Fort

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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500 Year Old Tombs Found In Bolivia

After the archaeological dig began last June, archaeologists said microorganisms wreaked havoc on the bodies' soft tissue.

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Archaeology, Tomb
Archeologists show a skull as part of an archeological finding, dated approximately 500 years ago, in Mazo Cruz, near Viacha, Bolivia. VOA

A team of archaeologists in Bolivia said they have discovered tombs containing over a hundred bundles of artifacts and human remains dating more than 500 years old that belonged to an indigenous civilization that once inhabited the region.

Bolivia’s Ministry of Cultures and Tourism authorized the dig more than three months ago after a mining project discovered archaeological remains in the area.

Archaeologists found the tombs, which they say may have belonged to the Pacajes people, in an underground burial chamber located some 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) southwest of Bolivia’s capital La Paz.

“Inside the cemetery we found two special tombs, one of which had about 108 individuals inside. They were badly deteriorated, but we were able to recover objects the individuals were buried with,” said archaeologist Wanderson Esquerdo.

Artifacts, bolivia, Tomb
Ceramic pieces are displayed as part of an archeological finding, dated approximately 500 years ago in Mazo Cruz, near Viacha, Bolivia.VOA

While two of the tombs had been ransacked, the others remained intact, he said.

To reach the tombs, scientists had to lower themselves through a circular chimney just 70 cm (27.5 inches) in diameter and 3 meters (9 feet) deep.

In addition to human remains, the largest tomb contained metal objects as well as ceramic and wooden dishes.

“There are objects that are clearly attributed to the Inca culture, and others that are not Inca, but rather Aymara,” Esquerdo said.

The indigenous Aymara kingdom of Pacajes flourished in the Bolivian highlands until it was conquered by the Incan empire in the mid-15th century, according to archaeologists, who believe the Pacajes people may have not been wiped out by the Incan conquest, but could have fallen victim to some type of epidemic.

Archaeology, bolivia, tomb
Metal pieces are displayed as part of an archeological finding, dated approximately 500 years ago in Mazo Cruz, near Viacha, Bolivia. VOA

The discovery is “unique and unprecedented,” said Wilma Alanoca, Bolivia’s Minister of Culture and Tourism.

Also Read: New Artifacts Found in Cairo, Egypt: Archaeologists

After the archaeological dig began last June, archaeologists said microorganisms wreaked havoc on the bodies’ soft tissue, quickly decomposing the remains. Excessive humidity and high salinity inside the chamber also deteriorated many of the buried objects, according to the dig team. (VOA)