The Info List - Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace
is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. The structure built by the Ancestral Puebloans
Ancestral Puebloans
is located in Mesa Verde National Park in their former homeland region. The cliff and biff dwelling and park are in the southwestern corner of Colorado, in the Southwestern United States.


1 History 2 Description

2.1 Square Tower

3 References 4 Bibliography 5 External links

History[edit] Tree-ring dating indicates that construction and refurbishing of Cliff Palace was continuous approximately from 1190 CE through 1260 CE, although the major portion of the building was done within a 20-year time span. The Ancestral Pueblo that constructed this cliff dwelling and the others like it at Mesa Verde were driven to these defensible positions by "increasing competition amidst changing climatic conditions".[1] Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace
was abandoned by 1300, and while debate remains as to the causes of this, some believe that a series of megadroughts interrupting food production systems is the main cause. Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace
was rediscovered in 1888 by Richard Wetherill
Richard Wetherill
and Charlie Mason while out looking for stray cattle.[2][3][4] Description[edit] Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace
was constructed primarily out of sandstone, mortar and wooden beams. The sandstone was shaped using harder stones, and a mortar of soil, water and ash was used to hold everything together. "Chinking" stones were placed within the mortar to fill gaps and provide stability. Many of the walls were decorated with colored earthen plasters, which were the first to erode over time.[citation needed] Many visitors wonder about the relatively small size of the doorways at Cliff Palace; the explanation being that at the time the average man was under 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 m), while the average woman was closer to 5 feet (1.5 m).[citation needed] Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace
contains 23 kivas (round sunken rooms of ceremonial importance) and 150 rooms and had a population of approximately 100 people. One kiva, in the center of the ruin, is at a point where the entire structure is partitioned by a series of walls with no doorways or other access portals. The walls of this kiva were plastered with one color on one side and a different color on the opposing side.[5] "It is thought that Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace
was a social, administrative site with high ceremonial usage."[6] Archaeologists believe that Cliff Palace contained more clans than the surrounding Mesa Verde communities. This belief stems from the higher ratio of rooms to kivas. Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace
has a room-to-kiva ratio of 9 to 1. The average room-to-kiva ratio for a Mesa Verde community is 12 to 1.[1] This ratio of kivas to rooms may suggest that Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace
might have been the center of a large polity that included surrounding small communities.[1]

Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace

13th-century mural in the Square Tower, Cliff Palace

Round tower, Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace
in 1941. Photograph by Ansel Adams.

Square Tower[edit] A large square tower is to the right and almost reaches the cave "roof". It was in ruins by the 1800s. The National Park Service carefully restored it to its approximate height and stature, making it one of the most memorable buildings in Cliff Palace. It is the tallest structure at Mesa Verde standing at 26 feet (7.9 m) tall, with four levels. Slightly differently colored materials were used to show that it was a restoration.[7][8] References[edit]

^ a b c Archaeology
of Native North America, 2010, Dean R. Snow, Prentice-Hall, New York. p. 128. ^ Turney, Chris (2008). Ice, Mud & Blood: Lessons of Climates Past. ^ People, NPS.gov, Accessed November 11, 2010. ^ Cliff Palace, NPS.gov, Accessed March 20, 2012. ^ Cliff Palace, NPS.gov, Accessed November 11, 2010. ^ Cliff Palace, NPS.gov, Accessed March 14, 2011. ^ Preservation, NPS.gov, Accessed November 11, 2010. ^ Square Tower House Description, CyArk.org, Accessed March 20, 2012.


North America portal

Chapen, Frederick H. The Land of the Cliff-Dwellers. Appalachian Mountain Club, W. B. Clarke and Co., Boston, 1892. Reprinted by the University of Arizona Press, with notes and forward by Robert H. Lister, 1988. ISBN 0-8165-1052-0. Noble, David Grant. "Ancient Ruins of the Southwest", pp. 36–43. Northland Publishing, Flagstaff, Arizona 1995. ISBN 0-87358-530-5. Oppelt, Norman T. "Guide to Prehistoric Ruins of the Southwest", pp. 159–161. Pruett Publishing, Boulder, Colorado, 1989. ISBN 0-87108-783-9. Turney, Chris. "Ice, Mud & Blood: Lessons of Climates Past", 2008 Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cliff Palace.

National Park Service: official Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace
website National Park Service: Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
website map showing location of Cliff Palace

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Cliff dwellings

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Ancestral Puebloan dwellings in Arizona Ancestral Puebloan dwellings in Colorado Ancestral Puebloan dwellings in Nevada Ancestral Puebloan dwellings in New Mexico Ancestral Puebloan dwellings in Texas Ancestral Puebloan dwellings in Utah


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Coordinates: 37°10′00″N 108°28′22″W / 37.16667°N 108.47278°W / 37.16667