ancient pueblo peoples


Photographs of Cliff Palace
The Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. The structure built by the Ancient Pueblo Peoples is located in Mesa Verde National Park in their former homeland region. The cliff dwelling and park are in the southwestern corner of Colorado, in the Southwestern United States.

Tree ring dating indicates that construction and refurbishing of Cliff Palace was continuous from c. 1190 CE through c. 1260 CE, although the major portion of the building was done within a twenty-year time span. The Ancestral Pueblo that constructed this cliff dwelling and the others like it at Mesa Verde were driven to these defensible positions by “increasing competition amidst changing climatic conditions.” Cliff Palace was abandoned by 1300, and while debate remains as to the causes of this, some believe a series of megadroughts interrupting food production systems is the main cause. Cliff Palace was first discovered in 1888 by Richard Wetherhill and Charlie Mason while out looking for stray cattle.


Hovenweep National Monument, Ancestral Pueblo people, located on the Utah/Colorado border in the USA. Dates from 600 AD.

National Park Service sign near the site:

“Hovenweep.” It is a Paiute and Ute word meaning “deserted valley.” It was the name given to this extraordinary place by pioneer photographer William H. Jackson, who visited here in 1874. It’s an apt description. As you scan the vast and lonely expanse surrounding you, it’s hard to imagine that these solitary canyons once echoed with the cries and laughter of hundreds of men, women and children.

Established as a National Monument in 1923, Hovenweep preserves what archaeologists consider to be the finest examples of ancestral Puebloan masonry found anywhere. Whether multi-story towers standing alone along canyon rims, or ingeniously engineered structures perched on massive boulders and ledges within the canyons, these ruins evoke feelings of wonder at the motivations and resourcefulness of their builders.

“I think that Hovenweep is the most symbolic of the places in the Southeast… Hovenweep gives me a feeling similar to what I feel when I’m participating in ceremonies which require a tacit recognition of realities other than the blatantly visual. During those times I know the nature and energy of the bear, of the rock, of the clouds, of the water. I become aware of energies outside myself, outside the human context. At Hovenweep, I slide into a place and begin to know the flowing, warm sandstone under my feet, the cool preciousness of the water, the void of the canyon, and the all covering sky. I want to be a part of the place.”

-Rina Swentzell, Pueblo Indian scholar, Santa Clara.

Photos courtesy & taken by Greg Willis.


Native American pottery of the Ancient Pueblo people from the Grand Canyon National Park.

The first is a Lino Gray bowl, and the earliest of the shown artifacts, dating to the Basketmaker III Era. The second bowl is of the ‘black mesa black on white’ style, and is heavily yellowed (likely with ocre). The third photo is of a Tusayan polychrome bowl, which dates to the Pueblo III Era, while the fourth dates to the early Pueblo III Era.

Courtesy the Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection.