Where Are The Anasazi Cliff Dwellings
The cliff dwellings were once thought as the work of an extinct group of aboriginal people. Later, it was established as the work of the ancestors of the present Pueblo between the 11th and 14th centuries. These dwellings were huge communal habitations that were built on the flat tops of the mesas and on ledges found in the canyon walls. They are designed with highly defensive feature and are very difficult to access.
Many of these cliff dwellings are now located in national parks. Some of the popular ones are those dwellings in Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park; the Yucca House national monuments and Canyons of the Ancients which are also in Colorado; New Mexico’s Gila and Bandelier Cliff Dwellings national monuments; Utah’s Hovenweep National Monument; and the national monuments in Arizona such as Wupatki, Montezuma Castle, Casa Grande Ruins, and Canyon de Chelly.
The Cliff Palace in Colorado is considered as the biggest cliff dwelling found in North America. At its height in the 1200s, this dwelling became the residence of around 100 people. It contained around 150 rooms and 23 kivas.
Out of the almost 600 cliff dwellings found within the park’s boundaries, 75 percent had only 1 to 5 reams each while most have single room storage units. It is believed that Cliff Palace was an administrative and social site here that was designed for high ceremonial activities.
Probing closer, it was observed that the cliff dwellings used mortar, sandstone and wooden beams as the 3 primary materials for construction. Each block of sandstone was shaped using harder stones that the Anasazi collected from nearby river beds. The blocks are placed against each other using mortar which is a mixture of water, ash, and local soil. This mortar is fitted in with small pieces of stone known as “chinking.” Apart from filling the gaps, the chinking stones also added stability to the wall structures. Then on the surface of many walls, the Anasazi placed decorative elements such as earthen plasters of white, yellow, red, brown, or pink.
Keet Seel is deemed as one of the best preserved Anasazi ruins in the American Southwest. It is known to be filled with artifacts unlike many of the other ruins which were stripped clean. This can be attributed to the fact that it is found in a very remote location and it has limited visitation policy, allowing only 1,500 people every year, 20 people a day, 5 people at a time, and always with the company of a ranger.
Keet Seel is nestled in a great alcove that can be found in a small side canyon which seemed more like an indentation. Just like most cliff dwellings, it also faces south. The area has spring, grasses that are growing in the fields, large trees and picnic tables that were ideally placed for those who want to take their lunch after a hike.
The alcove was around 30 feet above the canyon bottom and needed a ladder for its access. There were piles of potsherds which include numerous large pieces, one of which was around 6 inches long. The pottery had an amazing variety of designs that include multi-coloring, braiding and intricate patterns.