Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cortez CO - Mesa Verde

Sunday, 5/10, was Mesa Verde day. It was phenomenal. If you have not been, you should go.

It is a fairly long drive up some fairly long and steep hills to get into the park where the ruins are. We saw these guys riding on the way in. The older guy in the white jersey was just kicking butt and taking names. However, we saw them on the way out of the park, and he was off the back.

Knife Edge Mountain.

Dead tree. Since the 1970's, about 40% of the park has been burned in one fire or another.

We started at the visitor's center. They are really well done and worth going into for a sense of perspective on the history of the area. The mesa area has had people here since about 1 ad. Ruins go back to about 500 ad. They were right thinking people in that they were matrilineal. Property and inheritance went through the female line, until the Spanish came.

Navajo jewelry.

We started with ruins on the flat part of the mesa. The Ancestral Puebloans (AP) built here first, as at Hovenweep. They started in pit houses, and then graduated to above ground structures. They shaped the stones out of sandstone since it was soft enough to work.

This is a kiva, where they had ceremonial functions.

Sometime around 1200, the APs migrated off the mesa tops and into the cliff dwellings. This is one of the largest, Cliff Palace.

One climbs ladders to access it.

It's amazing. How did they do this much building in such a difficult place to reach?

Another kiva. They're ingenious. On the right side of the photo, in shadow, is an air shaft. When in use, there would have been a roof on the kiva, with a fire burning in the large pit. Air came through the shaft, hit the bench looking device and was deflected around the periphery of the kiva, so the fire was not blown out. The smaller hole in front of the fire pit is the sipapu. It's the entrance into the spirit world.

When one leaves, there are more ladders.

There are about 6,000 archeological sites in Mesa Verde. There are cliff dwellings everywhere.

See the vertical holes in about the middle of the next picture? Those are hand and foot holes. They would get a ladder to the bottom of the holes and then pull themselves up to the upper houses. Everyday they did this. They farmed the tops of the mesas, so they had to go to work. Life expectancy was about 30 for women and 40 for men. Emphysema was a leading cause of death due to inhaling particulate matter from the fires. Arthritis in was a problem from climbing, hauling things and working really hard just to stay alive. Many children did not make it to puberty.

Then it was on to Spruce Tree house.

This ruin has been stabilized so that it can withstand visitors in larger numbers. The ladder sticking out of the floor marks the location of a kiva. The roof has been put back on so people can see how it looked. The wall behind with the T shaped windows are living areas.

Ladder going into the kiva.

This is a kiva jar in the museum at Mesa Verde. The card said it was the finest example of the AP pottery in the collection. It's perfectly shaped and the painting is just beautiful.

The APs were on the mesas from about 500 to 1300 a.d. They had a good stay in that area.

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