Artifact Gallery - Cliff Dwelling, "Cliff Palace"

Large, multi-storied, ancient stone-masonry village in an alcove
Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. Constructed from sandstone blocks and a mortar of clay, ash, and water, these buildings have been standing for more than 800 years as a testament to the architectural skills of Ancestral Pueblo people. Of course it helps that the cliff dwellings, like Cliff Palace, were constructed in the shelter of alcoves where they were protected from the elements. Do you think the buildings that we build today would last that long?

Different theories explain why people chose to build homes, storage places, and kivas in these rugged cliff alcoves. Some suggest the move brought protection from the weather (many such sites stay cool in summer and are protected from winter snow and winds). Some believe they were defensive while others suggest the move brought them closer to seep springs, their main water source. There actually may have been several reasons. See what you can find to support or refute some of these theories.

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Last updated: May 12, 2020

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