A grand, sandstone-walled pit in Mesa Verde National Park has for decades been seen as an achievement of prehistoric hydrology, part of a system of cisterns and canals used by Ancestral Puebloans to harvest rainwater on the arid plateau as much as 1,100 years ago.
Cowboys who watered their horses at the pit in the 19th century called it Mummy Lake.
In 1917, government ethnologist Jesse Walker Fewkes cemented the more official interpretation of the site, deeming it a “prehistoric reservoir.”
But a new analysis of the feature finds that, while it may catch runoff from time to time, Mummy Lake wasn’t built for holding water. Read more.
MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK, Colo. — Archaeologists at Mesa Verde National Park say a crack is threatening the southern half of the park’s largest and most famous cliff dwelling.
The park announced Friday that the crack and other related structural problems is the reason why visitors have been kept away from the edge of a kiva on tours of Cliff Palace this summer. Wooden braces are now shoring up the kiva, a round, Pueblo Indian ceremonial structure built in the 13th century.
The crack was discovered last summer but it’s not the only problem archeologists are working to fix. Cliff Palace was built on a sloping alcove floor and, over time, it has been sliding downslope. Dripping water has been a long-standing problem too but water is now being rerouted away from the building. Read more.
Located within the Mesa Verde region of southwestern Colorado, a heretofore unheard-of archaeological site is beginning to offer up some hints about the early rise of the Pueblo society (otherwise known as the Anasazi) that gave rise to the great cliff dwellings and other settlements often associated with the famous Native American desert cultures in the Southwest region of the present-day United States.
Called the “Dillard” site, it does not (yet) sport the architectural wonders of better-known locations like the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings in Colorado or Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, but excavations by a team of archaeologists, students and volunteers there are slowly uncovering structures and artifacts that may hold some of the secrets to understanding the beginnings (the Basketmaker III period) of the Anasazi culture and address long unanswered questions such as where these people came from, population growth, how they created communities and what impact they had on their environment. Read more.
Archaeologists Embark on New Research Project to Study Early Pueblo Society
Amidst a scattering of homes in a southwestern Colorado residential development called Indian Camp Ranch, archaeologists from the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center are unearthing clues to the distant past. In a unique cooperative agreement with Indian Camp Ranch landowners, Crow Canyon is embarking on a new research project this year titled the “Basketmaker Communities Project: Early Pueblo Society in the Mesa Verde Region.” The project will shed light on a pivotal, but underinvestigated and poorly understood, time in Pueblo Indian history: the Basketmaker III period.
“We’re really excited about the project,” said Shanna Diederichs, supervisory archaeologist for the project. “There has been a lot of focus on the ancestral Pueblo people who built the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde and their migration from this area in the late 1200s. What we are focusing on with Basketmaker III is the first migration into the area. It’s the first chapter of the book.” Read more.
The majestic remains of Mesa Verde stand as icons to the legacy of the Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest. Anyone visiting them or the many other Pueblo sites that dot the picturesque desert landscape of the American Four Corners region and the southwestern states cannot help but walk away impressed. But who really built them, where did they come from, and what is their story? Archaeologists of the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center now hope to find answers through major new investigations at a promising site in Colorado. Read more.