All the Essentials


All the Essentials

The scene in the above photo was one of many Mesa Verde neighborhoods inhabited in the 1200s. The families who lived in the area depended on this landscape to meet their daily needs and to support a rich, full life. This landscape served as their pharmacy, grocery, clothing, and hardware stores. Knowledge of the locations and best uses of natural resources was passed down from generation to generation.

Take a moment and scan the cliffs, canyons, and mesa tops. Where would you look to find essential resources like those described below in the Mesa Verde landscape?
Separation bar with triangles - black and white
Pool of water at the base of a wet sandstone wall with plants nearby.
Seep spring that has formed at the base of a sandstone cliff.
Where would you find water for domestic needs such as drinking, cooking, and making pottery? A primary source is the water emerging from the cliffs as seeps and springs. Where else might you collect water?

Water from seep springs often emerged between two layers of rock; sandstone and shale. Some shale layers provided additional material that Ancestral Pueblo people needed to make items like pottery, mortar, and plaster—clay!
Small walls built with sandstone blocks arranged in a terraced fashion.
Ancient check dam where corn may have been planted.
Where would you find good farmland? You could search for areas on the mesa tops to clear fields and plant corn, beans, squash, and useful native herbs using digging sticks. You might also look for shallow drainages in which to build check dams to create moist garden plots.
Plant with green, pointed leaves surrounded by shubbery.
Yucca was used by the Ancestral Pueblo people for many things such as sandals, rope, clothing, baskets, and needles.
Where would you find native plants, such as yucca which was used for food, clothing, medicines, and other needs? In some areas, Pueblo people managed wild plants to boost the production of useful parts such as fruit, seeds, and leaves.
A tall, green pine tree located at the top of a sandstone cliff.
Pinyon pine tree and other plants nearby growing on the edge of a mesa.
Where would you find wood, such as trees and shrubs to use for fires, tool handles, or building timber?
Collage of large bull elk and two colorful tom turkeys.
Bull elk and turkeys
Where would you look for wildlife such as deer, elk, rabbits, and turkeys to supply food, clothing, and tools made of bone or antler? To find them, you could look for game trails, watering spots, or foraging areas.
Sandstone cliff face with a square chunk of rock that has fallen off the cliff into the canyon below.
Erosion has caused large chunks of sandstone pieces to crumble and fall away from the cliff into the canyon below.
Where would you find large pieces of sandstone to shape into blocks to build or repair homes, or as metates to grind corn?

Last updated: July 25, 2020

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