I’ll never understand how you can claim to discover an already populated continent. When you look back through history, it’s obvious that there were thriving civilizations across North America. There’s debate about when humans first arrived, but its clear things were flourishing around 1000 years ago. That would have been the time that the Pueblo Tribe were building their communities in the “Four Corners” region. A recent visit to Colorado Springs gave us a chance to stop by Manitou Cliff Dwellings. This visually impressive attraction offers an opportunity to see inside their life on the edge.
The first thing we discovered about the Manitou Cliff Dwellings is that this isn’t their original location. The ruins were constructed about 200 miles southwest near Mesa Verde. Back in 1904, the exhausting task of relocating was initiated. It would take nearly three years to disassemble and then painstakingly recreate it in its current location. The original site held 40 rooms but time and looters had caused some deterioration. Our initial impression was that they were successful at incorporating the relics into their new home.
The Manitou Cliff Dwellings sit along the side of a ridge that overlooks Colorado Springs. We made this stop in early September and found the crowds were manageable. When they relocated the ruins to this location, reassembly was done with concrete instead of the traditional adobe mud. This makes it an extremely sturdy structure and allows visitors to be able to explore the site. Instead of looking through a cordoned-off door, we were able to step in and see how corn and grains were ground.
Cooking Up Some History
The site isn’t limited to just the living structure. They also include some historic artifacts and replicas that help visitors picture life on the edge of a cliff. One of these is the Horno, which is Spanish for the oven. The Pueblo would fashion these cooking structures using the same technology as their adobe homes. The beehive shape worked well for baking bread. Hot embers could be doused with water to allow for steaming corn.
More To See
We continued scoping out the relics and found wooden ladders that allow access to some second-floor spaces. Some of these were storage areas with small doorways. We opted to stay on the outside and continued our investigation. Manitou Cliff Dwellings is comprised of three stories but most open areas are located on the ground level. They also have a museum on site that showcases life for the Pueblo Tribe. This is where we discovered much of the background information.
Popping through an opening, we found ourselves in a living space. We aren’t a tall couple but even we had to duck down to enter. The Pueblo people averaged 5’0″ to 5′ 5″ in height. This would have been comparable to the Europeans of that period. The construction of the dwellings consisted of sandstone, wooden beams, and adobe mortar. The mortar was a mixture of water, ash, and soil. This was packed between the stones and often included smaller chinking stones.
One of the featured spaces is called a Kiva, which is a Hopi word. This subterranean chamber was used for social gatherings and ceremonies. We learned that the walls would have traditionally been decorated with colorful murals. Periodically, the occupants would plaster over old murals to create space for new artwork. Kivas came in all sizes and were often designed to accommodate the size of the clan.
Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Since 1907, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings have sat on this hillside. It’s easy to imagine that millions have traveled through this space. Even with all of that traffic, the place is still solid. Our tickets were $12.00 each, but we found discount coupons in town that saved a couple of dollars each. Considering the length of time we spent here, the cost was low in comparison. Now that we’ve had this taste of Pueblo dwellings, we plan to visit more in the future. There are other historic sites closer to the four corners area, in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. You can bet that some of these will be in our future travel plans.
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