Mesa Verde National Park Things to Do

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Most Recent Things to Do in Mesa Verde National Park

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    Sun Point

    by Basaic Written Nov 8, 2011

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    The Sun Point Stop shows you the ruins of a village built during the latter stages of the Classic Pueblo Period of architecture. One characteristic of this period is the location of the tower and kiva inside the walls of the village.

    Sun Point Tower Sun Point Kiva
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    Village Evolution

    by Basaic Written Nov 8, 2011

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    Just outside the building where we saw the transitions from pithouse to pitroom to kiva and to attached rooms is a display where they show the later transition and evolution of the villages. There were three villages built on this site: The first in 900 AD; the second in 1000 AD and the last in 1075 AD. These villages have been carefully excavated to allow you to compare and contrast the similarities and differences in the development of the villages and their architecture.

    Excavated Villages
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    Succesive Villages: Village Layout

    by Basaic Written Nov 8, 2011

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    Here you can see an early version of a pueblo village with rooms attached to one another. This was the final evolution of the earliest villages and pithouses prior to the main pueblo period type of villages and cliff dwellings.

    Early Village Layout Early Village Layout
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    Succesive Villages: Kiva

    by Basaic Written Nov 8, 2011

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    Kivas were formalized religious and ceremonial rooms with benches, a ventilation shaft, an air deflector, a fire pit, and a sipapu for access to the underworld. The pilasters (small columns on the benches) supported the roof supports.

    Kiva
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    Succesive Villages: Pitrooms

    by Basaic Written Nov 8, 2011

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    Pitrooms were part of the transition from pithouses to kivas. The lack of household items like manos and metates signaled a transition toward a more formal religious chamber. The pitroom shown here is unusual due to its rectangular shape; most pitrooms were round.

    pitroom
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    Succesive Villages: Pithouses

    by Basaic Written Nov 7, 2011

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    Not far from the Square Tower Overlook is an area called Successive Villages. This was one of the most interesting sites to me because they were able to excavate a variety of villages from different time periods in a relatively small area without destroying other ruins. Too frequently villages were built on top of each other and to get to the lower levels you have to damage the upper level villages.

    The earlier indications of actual settlements, as opposed to the Paleo-Indian Hunter Gatherers, are Pithouses. Pithouses were built between 500 and 900 AD with most of the ones in Mesa Verde coming between 500 and 750. A pithouse had a living area sunk a few feet into the ground with four corner timbers supporting the roof. The firepits had air deflectors to help guide the smoke from cooking fires through a vent in the roof. There was also frequently an antechamber used for storage and there was a Sipapu which was a small hole for passage to the underworld. Pithouses, evolved into Pitrooms and eventually into Kivas (or Ceremonial Rooms).

    Pithouse From About 650 AD
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    Square Tower

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    Another really interesting building in the park is the Square Tower. You can view the tower from a viewpoint at the end of a short trail. At 28 feet, the square tower is the tallest building in the park. Square tower was part of an extensive complex of over 80 rooms and 7 kivas.

    Square Tower Complex Square Tower Closeup Square Tower Complex
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    Navajo Canyon View

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    The next stop after, the pithouse is Navajo Canyon Overlook. This area has a number of North/South canyons that average 650 feet in depth. This makes the mesa-top communities appear isolated but there was a lot of intercommunication. There would not have been as much advancement without this interaction.

    Navajo Canyon View Navajo Canyon View
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    Pithouse

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    After leaving the Chapin Mesa Complex, if you go straight, you can tour the Mesa Top Loop. The first stop on the Mesa Top Loop is one of the older style houses called a pithouse. These pithouses, were built around 750 AD and were predecessors to the pueblo and cliff dwellings that came later. I will go into a bit more detail about pithouses and this transition in later tips (starting about three from here).

    Pithouse
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    Spruce Tree House

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    Many of the dwellings in the park are either inaccessible or you can only tour them by purchasing a ticket and going on a ranger-guided tour. The Spruce Tree House is a self-guided tour from spring through fall. In the winter, weather permitting, there are ranger guided tours available. Spruce Tree House is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in the park. The trail leading to the dwelling is relatively short (1/2mile), and paved, but is very steep in spots and remember you are at 7000 feet in elevation. The trail to the dwelling connects with other trails.

    Spruce Tree House Spruce Tree House Spruce Tree House Spruce Tree House Kiva Spruce Tree House Metates
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    Chapin Mesa Facilities and Museum

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    As you enter the first part of Chapin Mesa there is a large parking area and a number of buildings and facilities on the right. One of the buildings is the excellent Chapin Mesa Museum. This museum is well worth seeing and has a number of well-done, informative displays that will give you insight into the people who built these dwellings and called Mesa Verde home. Displays include: Dioramas, pottery, rugs, paintings and other types of displays. The types of pottery found at a site is a good indicator of when an area was occupied and how extensive their trade and social relationships with other locations were. Most pottery produced in the Mesa Verde area was the black on white design. I was very impressed by this museum and found it fascinating.
    In addition to the museum, this complex offers a post office, and a restaurant and gift shop.

    Museum Pottery Diorama Painting Rug
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    Far View Sites: Pipe Shrine House

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    The Far View Community was one of the most densely populated areas in the Mesa Verde area, with over 50 villages in a 1/2 square mile area. Pipe Shrine House got its name from the 12 pottery pipes found while excavating the kiva floor here. Note the neat design on the stone to the left of the doorway in Photo 2.

    Pipe Shrine House Pipe Shrine House
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    Far View Sites: Far View Tower

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    Another interesting site in the Far View Community was the Far View Tower. Towers were several stories tall, were built using double coursed masonry and only during the later periods of construction (usually 1100 to 1300 AD). The exact use of these towers is unknown but they were frequently connected to kivas by a tunnel so they may have been ceremonial or religious in use. What do you think? Also of particular interest to me were the "Keyhole Kivas", so called because of their shape like an old keyhole.

    Far View Tower
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    Far View Sites: Far View House

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    Far View House was the first mesa-top site excavated by famous archeologist Dr. Jesse Walter Fewkes, in 1916. Fewkes pioneered some of the early techniques used in the excavation and study of Pueblo sites in the Southwest and contributed greatly to our knowledge of their lives and habits. Far View House was built around 1000 AD and was occupied until the 1300s. It shares many architectural similarities (like planned community design, large rooms and doorways, massive walls, and the overall layout of rooms and kivas) with the sites in Chaco Canyon. The design of the building along with items like pottery, baskets and jewelry, found during excavation indicate extensive and far reaching trade relations.

    Far View House
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    Far View Sites: Coyote Village

    by Basaic Written Nov 5, 2011

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    About 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) south of the visitors center is a grouping of villages called the Far View Community or Far View Sites. There is a short, level, unpaved 3/4 mile loop trail that leads through these villages. One village is called Coyote Village. Coyote Village has lots of rooms built together in a large building. Many of the smaller rooms were used for storage. Coyote Village also had a very nice Kiva (a special room used for ceremonial purposes) that was enclosed inside the walls of the building. Sites here were built and occupied from around 750 AD to 1300 AD a period of almost 700 years.

    Coyote Village Coyote Village
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Mesa Verde National Park Things to Do

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