John and I both have been to this park before, however, it’s been many years. I remember coming to it as a kid and thinking it was kind of boring. Your perspective changes as you become an adult. The history of the native people and the structures was quite fascinating this time.
For the record, some of the quotes below are from the National Park Service
Ancestral Puebloans of Mesa Verde
About 1,400 years ago, long before Europeans explored North America, a group of people living in the Four Corners region chose Mesa Verde for their home. For more than 700 years they and their descendants lived and flourished here, eventually building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Then, in the late A.D. 1200s, in the span of a generation or two, they left their homes and moved away.
Just above this area of the Cliff Palace was a plateau where the people would grow their gardens and tend to their crops. They acquired water from the many springs in the area and it would then been carried down the long kiva ladders to their storehouses.
John and I were trying to envision carrying a deer or elk down those ladders!
Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Puebloans began living in pueblos they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. The structures ranged in size from one-room storage units to villages of more than 150 rooms. While still farming the mesa tops, they continued to reside in the alcoves, repairing, remodeling, and constructing new rooms for nearly a century. By the late 1270s, the population began migrating south into present-day New Mexico and Arizona. By 1300, the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of Mesa Verde ended.
This next area was quite fascinating, it’s called the Far View area.
Far View was one of the most densely populated parts of the mesa from A.D. 900 to about A.D. 1300. Nearly 50 villages have been identified within a half square mile area, and were home to hundreds of people.
It was hard to take a really good picture of this area since it’s kind of stair stepped. Basically, the native people started building these sites and lived in them before moving below to the cliff dwellings. I would imagine the cliffs provided shelter from the summer heat and the winter snow so that they were able to more effectively run their community.
No one really knows why the native people left Mesa Verde. They are still hoping that by digging in the more than 600 archeological sites in the area that they can find an answer to this mystery.
For now, it’s a great place to visit and to learn a small piece of history from these Native Puebloans.