John Hunter at the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, USA. The photos in this post show the Cliff Palace site (photos by John Hunter). You must take a ranger led tour to walk into the Cliff Palace. The overhead lookout doesn’t require joining a tour.
Recent studies reveal that Cliff Palace contained 150 rooms and 23 kivas and had a population of approximately 100 people. Out of the nearly 600 cliff dwellings concentrated within the boundaries of the park. Cliff Palace is an exceptionally large dwelling which may have had special significance. It is thought that Cliff Palace was a social, administrative site with high ceremonial usage.
Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Pueblo people began living in pueblos they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. The structures ranged in size from one-room storage units to villages of more than 150 rooms. While still farming the mesa tops, they continued to reside in the alcoves, repairing, remodeling, and constructing new rooms for nearly a century.
View from the cliff palace, looking across the valley.
By the late 1270s, the population began migrating south into present-day New Mexico and Arizona. By 1300, the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of Mesa Verde ended.
This shows a view of the surrounding land as seen from Mesa Verde National Park.
It isn’t so visible from the photos but the doorways are quite short. The builders of the cliff dwelling were shorter than we are today (Men were about 5’4″ tall while an average woman was 5′ – similar to an average European of the same time period).
Related: Photos of the Balcony House at Mesa Verde National Park – Borobudur in Java, Indonesia (9th century) – Angkor Wat, Cambodia (12th century) – Guadalupe Peak Trail, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas