Mesa Verde National Park
Established in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, Mesa Verde National Park preserves one of the more significant and largest concentrations of archaeological sites in North America. It is here that the world-famous cliff dwellings, built by the ancient Ancestral Pueblo culture (also known as Anasazi) some 1,400 years ago, are located. The park encompasses over 80 square miles and features almost 5,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, the most famous of which are the Cliff Palace and Spruce Tree House village. The park's visitor and research center features a museum and archives. The museum's exhibits explore the life of the modern descendants of the Pueblo and feature works of art created by contemporary artists. The archives holds an impressive three million objects; visitors can actually see inside it through viewing portals. Visitors to the park can take guided tours, walk on hiking trails, and participate in the various programs offered. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Backstory and Context
Finally, in the 1200s the Pueblo reached their peak. It was during this time that they built the impressive cliff dwellings we see today. In the Spruce Tree House village complex, there are 129 rooms and 8 kivas (special rooms where rituals took place), and it is estimated that 60-90 people lived here.
By 1300, the Pueblo deserted Mesa Verde and researchers are still unclear as to why. It is believed that drought and depleted resources played a large role. But without a written record, the exact reasons will perhaps never be known.
The Pueblo developed an advanced culture. It is likely that society was stratified and matrilineal and that tasks (farming, pottery making, hunting, cooking, etc.) were specialized. The Pueblo were also connected to vast trade networks that stretched to the Pacific Coast and to the south. Archaeologists have discovered seashells that came from the Pacific and turquoise, cotton, and pottery from areas to the south.
"History and Culture." National Park Service. Accessed March 22, 2015. https://www.nps.gov/meve/learn/historyculture/index.htm.