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Mesa Verde Panoramas

In the early thirteenth century, native peoples living in the area that is now the southwestern United States moved from the tops of mesas to protected cliff dwellings where they stored food, lived in small rectangular rooms, and used circular kivas for ceremonial purposes. At Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado, established in 1906, where the panoramas below were taken, communities remained in the area until diminishing resources and a 23 year drought, which began in 1276, may have caused them to abandon the cliff dwellings.

As you view the panoramas consider the advantages and disadvantages of living in cliff dwellings. List the ecological and social factors that may have caused people to build the pueblos and then abandon them. Use the linked quotations and additional photographs to assist you in your interpretation.

Quicktime VR

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Cliff Palace

Spruce Tree Dwellling #1

Spruce Tree Dwellling #2

Credits: Photographs by Carolyn Merchant; panorama assembly and web page by Rob Weinberg.