Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mesa Verde Pueblo Indians

The Mesa Verde National Park was established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. It was the first park established more to preserve cultural heritage than to showcase natural resources. The pueblo at Mesa Verde is one of the best preserved pueblos, although the Indians stopped inhabiting the site around 200 years before Columbus first saw the West Indies.

Probably for protection, the pueblo people moved from the cliff tops to inside the cliffs around 1200. They built cities in amazing places. However it is not known if they moved because the protection was no longer necessary, if the ardors of living in a cliff were too much, or they were just following their food supply. The mesa tops were used for farming, while the people lived below. What we do know is that they left Colorado for Arizona and New Mexico, but left behind amazing natural wonders that are a must see for Colorado Vacations.

There are actually several pueblos in the area. The largest is the Cliff Palace, which had over 150 rooms. The area was first found by American settlers in 1888, far after the surrounding areas had been colonized. Cowboys looking for their cattle found the archaeological spot. The cliff dwelling alcove was made out of a natural geologic actions over thousands of years. The cliff is made primarily of sandstone, which water seeps through easily. However there are deposits of shale that trap water. When the water freezes in winter it expands and cracks the rock forming holes or natural caves in the cliff walls. The rocks are fragile and the area is labeled under the strictest standing by the clean air act. This is a higher standard than most cities.

In addition to the large number of rooms, the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde has 23 ceremonial kivas. Although the society that lived in the cliffs changed or died out, we do know something about their ceremonies. It is possible that more than one community lived in the cliff and that the kivas were like diplomatic areas. The descendants of the cliff dwellers probably became the pueblo peoples of New Mexico.

They took with them the knowledge of adobe building, but built their structures on the flat earth. Both people were primarily farmers who stayed in the same place. They built the structures to house their grains and to protect themselves, unlike the plains Indians of the movies who were nomadic. People coming on Colorado Vacations may expect to see Indians on the site, but all these Indians moved away. The only remaining Indians are the Ute, who operate casinos in southwestern Colorado.

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