Walk in the Steps of Ancient Civilization at Cliff Palace

May 15, 2013 by

mesa verde cliff palace

Mesa Verde Cliff Palace

History lovers have the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of ancient civilization when they visit the ruins of the Mesa Verde Cliff Palace and Balcony House which overlook other cliff dwellings in the Mesa Verde National Park.

Park rangers lead one hour tours between 8:00 in the morning and sunset.

Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Dwellings

Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Dwellings

History of Cliff Palace

Recent studies show the Cliff Palace housed 150 rooms and 23 kivas, and about 100 people lived in the almost 600 cliff dwellings located in the park.

Most of these dwellings have anywhere between 1-5 rooms, but many are single-room storage areas. However, a visit to the Cliff Palace takes you inside the exceptionally large dwelling where the people gathered socially and for ceremonial use.

Ancestral Puebloans of the Cliff Palace

Many visitors to the Cliff Palace remark on the size of the doorways. They are shorter than modern-day doorways, but the ancestral Peubloan man averaged around 5’4″ to 5’5″ in height. The women were a little shorter ranging between 5′ and 5’1″.

While that sounds rather short by today’s standards, if you compare these heights to the European people from the same time period, they were about the same size. The average lifespan was between 32-34 years of age, but that factors in the fact that almost 50% of their children died before they were 5 years old.

Cliff Palace

Learn About Chinking

The actual construction of the Cliff Palace and other dwellings offer a first-hand look at a historical building technique called chinking. The primary construction materials used to construct the cliff dwellings in Colorado include sandstone, mortar and wooden beams.

The ancient Puebloans shaped sandstone block by using harder stones as tools. These stones were collected from nearby river beds. Local soil, water, and ash were used as mortar and then fitted with tiny pieces of stone  embedded into the mortar. These chinking stones filled gaps which provided more structural stability to the walls.

Another interesting bit of history includes the remnants of earthen plasters used to decorate walls. The ancient art included the colors: pink, brown, red, yellow, or white. While they are interesting to see, time has eroded the vibrancy of these colors and a good bit of the detail.

Visitors purchase tickets for a one-hour tour at the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center before driving to the sites.

Photo credits: inkknife_2000, Ken Lund, inkknife_2000

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