The following information will provide your students with a basic overview of the natural and cultural history of Mesa Verde National Park.
1. Welcome To Mesa Verde
Ranger TJ loves to share the history of her people with park visitors. Ranger TJ is Laguna Pueblo. Her ancestors lived on the mesa long ago.
2. The Mesa Verde Environment
Mesa Verde National Park is located in Southwest Colorado, near Four Corners. Four Corners is where the states of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado all meet. Use a classroom map to locate Four Corners and Mesa Verde National Park.
View of Navajo Canyon at Mesa Verde National Park
3. Living on the Mesa
For over 700 years, Pueblo people lived on and around the Mesa Verde region. Pueblo Indians are American Indians who live in pueblos and have a long tradition of farming.
Pueblo is the Spanish word for "village" or "town." In the Southwest, a pueblo is a settlement that has houses made of stone, mud, and wood. The houses have flat roofs and can be one or more stories tall.
Pueblo people first began living on the mesa around 550 CE (Common Era). The Mesa Verde environment was a good place for these earlier settlers to farm and build permanent homes called pithouses. Pithouses were dug partially underground with a wood and mud roof.
Over time, the style of home changed to above ground rooms built side by side (750 CE). Pueblo villages grew in size and farms were expanded. While pueblo farmers grew a variety of crops, corn was especially important.
Communities continued to grow on the mesa. By 900 CE homes and villages were built of stone. Stone masonry allowed for two, three, even four story villages. People traded with other villages and communities far way, bring in fine items and new ideas.
In the 1100's families began to move from mesa top villages into cliff dwellings. Cliff dwellings are pueblos built into shallow alcoves located along the steep walls of canyons.
Why move into a cliff dwelling? Pueblos built into these natural rock alcoves were protected from wind, rain, and snow. Active seep springs where families could collect water were also located below the canyon rim, in or near many of these alcove sites.
Last updated: February 7, 2022