If you’re traveling in the southwest, Mesa Verde National Park in the Four Corners region is a must-see destination! Even though most of the cliff dwellings at the park were partially reconstructed long after the Ancestral Puebloans migrated, they are still amazing. One of the dwellings you can visit is Cliff Palace, which is the largest cliff dwelling in the park. I loved exploring this amazing site built by the Ancestral Puebloans over 800 years ago. During the 1200s, the dwelling likely had 100 residents. Based on archaeological studies, there were likely 150 rooms and 23 kivas; kivas are typically circular, underground or partially subsurface, spaces used for religious purposes. The Ancestral Puebloans would live in cliff dwellings like Cliff Palace, while farming on the top of the mesas. By the end of the 1200s AD, however, most of the inhabitants had migrated elsewhere due to a number of factors, such as environmental degradation to overpopulation.
One thing to keep in mind while visiting Mesa Verde is that the Ancestral Puebloans didn’t simply ‘disappear’ or completely abandon the area. That’s an unfortunate myth surrounding the Ancestral Puebloans. For one, their descendants include the modern Pueblo tribes of the Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, and Laguna—so the Ancestral Puebloans didn’t vanish, they moved. And, they migrated to other parts of the Four Corners over a long period of time, hardly all at once. As with visiting any archaeological site, it is important to remember to visit with respect and care.
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