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Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

by R.J. Caputo

Established: June 29, 1906

Mesa Verde National Park is a U.S. National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Montezuma County, Colorado, United States. It is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States. The park was created in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, to protect some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the world, or as he said, “preserve the works of man”. As a result, it is the first, and still only, cultural National Park set aside by the National Park System. It occupies 81.4 square miles (211 km2) near the Four Corners and features numerous ruins of homes and villages built by the Ancestral Puebloan people, sometimes called the Anasazi. There are over four thousand archaeological sites and over six hundred cliff dwellings of the Pueblo people at the site.

The Anasazi inhabited Mesa Verde between 600 to 1300, though there is evidence they left before the start of the fifteenth century. They were mainly subsistence farmers, growing crops on nearby mesas. Their primary crop was corn, the major part of their diet. Men were also hunters, which further increased their food supply. The women of the Anasazi are famous for their elegant basket weaving. Anasazi pottery is as famous as their baskets; their artifacts are highly prized. The Anasazi kept no written records.

By the year 750, the people were building mesa-top villages made of adobe. In the late 1190s, they began to build the cliff dwellings for which Mesa Verde is famous.

Mesa Verde is best known for cliff dwellings, which are structures built within caves and under outcroppings in cliffs — including Cliff Palace, thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America. The Spanish term Mesa Verde translates into English as “green table”. It is considered to contain some of the most notable and best preserved archaeological sites

(Continue reading about Mesa Verde National Park)

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