This park is like taking a huge step back in time. What we saw here did not represent any history of our nation but rather significant history of our continent. Throughout Mesa Verde National Park are cliff dwellings built by Native Americans (Puebloans) more than eight hundred years ago. It’s incredible to see the engineering skill, imagination, and perseverance these early Americans used in creating their homes among these elevated cliffs.
During our visit we had an opportunity to go inside a reconstructed kiva, a circular underground room typically included in these cliff dwellings believed to be used for religious ceremonies or other community gatherings. The design and construction of these are impressive. They include seating all around the room, a fire pit at the center, a vent hole in the ceiling, ventilation shaft on one side to provide air supply for the fire, and a shielding stone or small wall to protect the fire from being blown out by the incoming air. All this is below the floor with a perfectly smooth roof which can easily be walked across at floor level (in cliffs hundreds of feet above the valley bottom).
What impressed me about Mesa Verde was scale. These dwellings are hundreds of feet above the valley/canyon floor, they housed entire communities, not just a handful of people. The dwellings are positioned in many locations throughout the park and exist in other spots in the state and even the continent. Some of the dwellings have multiple floors and there are dwellings occupying multiple layers within the cliffs! Then consider the fact that much of the structure has survived for over eight centuries! How much of today’s architecture do you believe will still be here eight hundred years from now?
It’s truly impressive what these Native Americans did and how they lived.