May 15, 2009
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Only three of many cliff dwelling sites are open to public. We started with a tour at Balcony House, noted for a challenging route that includes walking down 130 steep stairs, climbing a 32 foot ladder, squeezing through an 18 inch-wide twelve-foot tunnel on hands and knees, climbing two more ladders and then climbing steps carved into the face of the cliff. Exciting stuff!
We met up with Ranger Rebecca and were on our way…
The view from Balcony House:
The view of Balcony House across the canyon:
Our second tour led us to Spruce Tree House which was constructed between AD 1200 and 1276 and contains about 114 rooms.
The Anasazi people (Anasazi means “ancient people”, but it is a Navajo word that can be translated as “enemy ancestors”), now called Ancestral Puebloen, lived in the Spruce Tree House (which should have been called Fir Tree House) near a spring and lush vegetation.
Lloyd climbed down into a kiva at this site – one of those holes in the ground. A kiva is an underground chamber used by male Pueblo Indians for religious rites.
The circular cavity below is a kiva without a roof. The kiva is still a sacred structure to the Pueblo people. Below you can see the pilasters that supported the roof beams, the banquette (bench-like form), and the ventilator shaft. You cannot see a firepit in the middle of the floor, nor the deflector between the firepit and venting shaft that helped circulate fresh air and, the feature that really struck us, the Sipapu. Sipapu (a Hopi word) is a small hole in the floor that represents the opening through which man emerged onto the face of the earth and a spirit portal.
Kivas are still used by Pueblo people today.
The Spruce Tree House is the third largest dwelling in the park at about 216 feet wide and 89 feet deep, all built within a natural cave. The most impressive of the dwellings to come…