Lost History Native American Cliff Palace of Mesa Verde

Cliff Palace of Mesa Verde

Cliff Palace of Mesa Verde
Catalog # SKU3922
Publisher TGS Publishing
Author Name Jesse Walter Fewkes
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


The Cliff Palace
of Mesa Verde

Jesse Walter Fewkes

It is remarkable that this magnificent ruin (pl. 1) so long escaped knowledge of white settlers in the neighboring Montezuma valley. Cliff Palace is not mentioned in early Spanish writings, and, indeed, the first description of it was not published until about 1890.



In the following pages the walls and other remains of buildings and the objects found in the rooms have been treated from their cultural point of view. Considering ethnology, or culture history, as the comparative study of mental productions of groups of men in different epochs, and cultural archeology as a study of those objects belonging to a time antedating recorded history, there has been sought in Cliff Palace one type of prehistoric American culture, or rather a type of the mental production of a group of men in an environment where, so far as external influences are concerned, caves, mesas, and cliffs are predominant and aridity is a dominant climatic factor.

Primarily archeology is a study of the expression of human intelligence, and it must be continually borne in mind that Cliff Palace was once the home of men and women whose minds responded to their surroundings. It is hoped that this monograph will be a contribution to a study of the influence of environment on the material condition of a group of prehistoric people. The condition of culture here brought to light is in part a result of experiences transmitted from one generation to another, but while this heritage of culture is due to environment, intensified by each transmission, there are likewise in it survivals of the culture due to antecedent environments, which have also been preserved by heredity, but has diminished in proportion, pari passu, as the epoch in which they originated is farther and farther removed in time from the environment that created them. These survivals occur mostly in myths and religious cult objects, and are the last to be abandoned when man changes his environment.

It is believed that one advantage of a series of monographic descriptions of these ruins is found in the fact that the characteristics of individual ruins being known, more accurate generalizations concerning the entire culture will later be made possible by comparative studies. There is an individuality in Cliff Palace, not only in its architecture but also in a still greater measure in the symbolism of the pottery decoration. These features vary more or less in different ruins, notwithstanding their former inhabitants were of similar culture. These variations are lost in a general description of that culture.

The reader is asked to bear in mind that when the repair of Cliff Palace was undertaken the vandalism wrought by those who had dug into it had destroyed much data and greatly reduced the possibility of generalizations on the character of its culture. The ruin had been almost completely rifled of its contents, the specimens removed, and its walls left in a very dilapidated condition. Much of the excavation carried on under the writer's supervision yielded meager scientific results so far as the discovery of specimens was concerned; throughout the summer earth was being dug over that had already been examined and cult objects removed. Had it been possible to have begun work on Cliff Palace just after the ruin was deserted by the aboriginal inhabitants, or, as that was impossible, at least anticipated only by the destruction wrought by the elements, these explorations might have illumined many difficult problems which must forever remain unsolved.

The present monograph is the second in a series dealing with the antiquities of the Mesa Verde National Park and opening with the account of the excavation and repair of Spruce-tree House. An exhaustive account of all known antiquities from Cliff Palace is not intended, and no reference is made even to many objects from that ruin now in museums. Discussion of details is not so much aimed at as brevity in the statement of results and a contribution to our knowledge of a typical form of Southwestern culture. Believing that modern Pueblo culture is the direct descendant of that of cliff-dwellers, the writer has not hesitated to make use of ethnology, when possible, in an interpretation of the archeological material.

Although the name Cliff Palace is not altogether an appropriate one for this ruin, it is now too firmly fixed in the literature of cliff-dwellings to be changed. The term "palace" implies a higher social development than that which existed in this village, which undoubtedly had a house chief similar to the village chief (kimongwi) of the Hopi, who occupied that position on account of being the oldest man of the oldest clan; but this ruin is not the remains of a "palace" of such a chief.

The population of Cliff Palace was composed of many clans, more or less distinct and independent, which were rapidly being amalgamated by marriage; so we may regard the population as progressing toward a homogeneous community. Cliff Palace was practically a pueblo built in a cave; its population grew from both without and within: new clans from time to time joined those existing, while new births continually augmented the number of inhabitants.

There was no water at Cliff Palace when work began, but a good supply was developed in the canyon below the ruin, where there is every reason to believe the former inhabitants had their well. In a neighboring canyon, separated from that in which Cliff Palace is situated by a promontory at the north, there is also a meager seepage of water which was developed incidentally into a considerable supply. In the cliff above this water is a large cave in which was discovered the walls of a kiva of the second type, but the falling of a large block of rock upon it-which occurred subsequent to the construction of this kiva-led to its abandonment. This cave is extensive enough for a cliff-house as large as Cliff Palace; but for this accident it might have developed into a formidable rival of the latter.

160 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover - Print size, 12 point font

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