Heading out to the "Four Corners" we discovered the area was closed for construction so ended up driving to Cortez, CO to Mesa Verde Nat'l Park and what an amazing place it was. The Ancestral Puebloans moved to the area more than 1500 years ago and stayed in the area until the 1300's. Many of their dwellings are still visible today. The park contains over 4,000 known archaeological sites including cliff dwellings and the mesa top sites of pithouses, pueblos, masonry towers, and farming structures. The dwellings are some of the most notable and best preserved in the North American Continent. Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Puebloans 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.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, 75% contain only 1-5 rooms each, and many are single room storage units. Cliff Palace is an exceptionally large dwelling (believed to be the largest) which may have had special significance to the original occupants. It is thought that Cliff Palace was a social, administrative site with high ceremonial usage. There are at least 11 smaller dwellings within sight of the Cliff House and just above it on the mesa is the Sun Temple which is believed to be a ceremonial structure. Spruce Tree House, the third largest cliff dwelling was constructed between A.D. 1211 and 1278 by the ancestors of the Puebloan peoples of the Southwest. The dwelling contains about 130 rooms and 8 kivas (kee-vahs), or ceremonial chambers, built into a natural alcove measuring 216 feet (66 meters) at greatest width and 89 feet (27 meters) at its greatest depth. It is thought to have been home for about 60 to 80 people. As you drive around the park there are many dwellings visible, some quite dilapidated while others are still in quite good condition. One of the most interesting things we learned was how they reached these sights virtually built into the sides of the cliffs. Not only did they use ladders but they chipped holes in the rock face and had the perfect sized rocks that fit into the holes, then climbed up the rock face much like they do on rock walls today. It is a unique place in the world to stand where these ancient people lived and worked. Trying to imagine what their lives were like, how hard they worked and how creative they were in designing not only their dwellings but their tools, vessels, clothing and the things they needed for day-to-day living, one can only wonder what their lives were like.