September 15, 2009 – Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
On our last full day in Colorado, we toured the six-mile Mesa Top Loop Drive, visiting most of the archeological exhibits and overlooks.
Square Tower House cliff dwelling is named for the four-story-high structure standing against the curved back wall of the alcove. About 60 of the original 80 rooms of Square Tower House remain.
All of the cliff dwellings, including Square Tower House, were part of the final Mesa Verde building phase. People lived here between AD 1200 and 1300.
Small lizard on a ruin wall
After spending the morning among the ruins, we took a drive in the afternoon. At one point, we found ourselves on open range, with the road blocked by a herd of horses. As I very slowly eased the car forward, the horses parted and let us through.
Commentary and images from the road
image and information from September 15, 2009
Pithouse – For thousands of years, native peoples were living in the surrounding areas before coming to Mesa Verde. As with people all over the Southwest, Ancestral Puebloans lived in modest dwellings — shallow pits dug into the ground, covered with pole and mud roofs and walls, with entrances through the roofs.
In this excavation (above), what appears to be one pithouse is actually two. The larger one, built first, around AD 700, was destroyed by fire. The smaller one, which looks like an antechamber to a larger room, is actually a second pithouse built soon after the first one burned. It contains a new feature, a verticle ventilator shaft in one side, which appears in pithouses from then on — innovation!
Above is an Ancestral Puebloan kiva – an undeground religious room. The small circular hole in the floor is a sipapu, a symbolic entrance into the underworld – the Pueblo place of origin. This early kiva design was continued in the Mesa Verde villages and cliff dwellings.
Many fires have swept across Mesa Verde over time. Recent fires have exposed previously undiscovered Puebloan sites.
At our campsite on our final afternoon in