Friday, October 7, 2011

Mesa Verde - Pithouse and Sun Temple

 We learned that most of the cliff dwellings dated from about 1100ad, but apparently, there were even earlier civilizations on the mesa as evidenced by the pithouses dating from 600ad.

 These were much simpler dwellings and consisted of a pit dug in the earth which was then covered by relatively simple structures using branches and other materials.

 While we probably will never really know for certain, the pit structure may have been used to provide some insulation from the hot sun when compared to a primitive structure set solely on top of the ground.

 Compare the pithouse structure to the Square House cliff dwellings which are found in the same area. Rick notes these were built some 500 years after the pithouse--pretty amazing when you think the United States has been around for less than 300 years!

 It seems pretty clear how this structure got its Squarehouse name -- no doubt due to the square structure seen above. Rick was very impressed with the construction of these dwellings -- multiple stories high, with square, straight walls.

 This gives an idea as to where structures were built. In this case, the structures are located in the large cave area, a couple hundred feet below the cliff surfaces.

 A closer shot shows that these are very difficult to approach and of course, would be very hard to bring construction materials to. Imagine trying to manually bring rocks, water and food up the cliff to these dwellings. These people also farmed several crops on top of the mesa -- getting to work sure took on a new meaning as you would climb up or down the cliff each way.

 Our final stop in Mesa Verde was at the Sun Temple which is one of the very few structures built on top of the mesa. This gave us a great chance to see how the structures were built and to see how well it has weathered over 700 years of time and weather.

The temple was apparently never finished and why the entire civilization abandoned the area, we do not know, however, drought is thought to be a contributing factor. This shot shows how accurately the masonry was done on interior walls.

Mesa Verde is a fascinating place and very well worth a full day to explore it. It did make us wonder what folks 1,000 years from now will think of our civilization and what they might think of our motorhome!


Ron Howes said...

As always, an interesting blog. We've given you a link from our aviation website today at (once in a while, we actually talk about aviation...)

Chuck and Anneke's RV travels said...

Great tour, thanks!