Memorial Day, Monday, May 30th, the students of the 2016 Crow Canyon College Field School went on a trip to Mesa Verde National Park. It should be noted that 2016 is the National Park Service’s centennial, and Mesa Verde celebrates its 110th anniversary. It is also the 110th anniversary of the Antiquities Act, the United States’ first law protecting archaeological resources on Federal lands.
The beginning of our trip to the park entailed visiting the Mesa Top Sites occupied from the Basketmaker III to Pueblo II time periods, A.D. 600-1100.
The students got to see examples of what an excavated pit structure looks like. Now they know what to expect later in the field school as their excavations progress!
The students also got to see examples of how these sites have multiple layers of occupation. In the pit houses there was evidence of remodeling, such as multiple post holes. One site even had two kivas and a tower superpositioned, or built in levels, on top of each other. This gave the students a chance to practice dating the periods of occupation based on the architecture of the individual structures. Another site had an early roomblock, or pueblo building, and kiva with a later roomblock and kiva built right over the earlier’s midden.
Before lunch the students stopped at an overlook to see Square Tower House (above). Towers date to the mid 1100s-late 1200s A.D. in the Mesa Verde region. This is the tallest tower in the park. And notice the “T” shaped door at the bottom of the tower? “T” shaped doors are prevalent in Chaco Canyon too, and are believed to be evidence of Mesoamerican influence in the Southwest.
The students then enjoyed a view of Cliff Palace and other cliff dwellings from Sun Point Overlook…
After lunch it was time for the tour of Cliff Palace!
The students filed down the narrow path and staircases towards the village under the alcove.
The students and Dr. Ryan rested a few moments in the shade as they listened to the ranger tell the story of the people who once lived at Cliff Palace.
Many of the structures in Cliff Palace still have original wood beams (above). Some of these beams were used by archaeologists to obtain dendrochronology samples, allowing them to date Cliff Palace. Cliff Palace was built between A.D. 1190 and 1280 and is believed to have housed up to 200 people. It was built around a water seep in the back of the alcove, typical of Pueblo III period architecture.
Cliff Palace housed several towers. And there are more “T” shaped doors!
After the tour the students were given a special treat by Ranger Lloyd and were allowed to look at a pictograph panel that was up inside one of the towers (below). Even though the pictograph had been restored, it still showed a textile-style motif, typical of acestral Pueblo designs.
The students got to enjoy a climb up several ladders to bring them back up to the top of the mesa!
After the tour of Cliff Palace the students browsed the dioramas and collections held at the Chapin Mesa Archaeology Museum.
Near the Museum is Spruce Tree House. It was recently closed because of a rock fall in the alcove, but the students still enjoyed the view from the overlook.
Some of the students gathered more information about the geological process that effect the park from the rangers.
After visiting the gift shops near the museum it was time to head back to the Crow Canyon campus. Overall the students all agreed that the Mesa Verde trip was a great experience!
After dinner the students had a program about collections management led by Jamie. The students were excited that Jamie used Indiana Jones as an example for how to manage and organize collections and exhibits.
Tomorrow will be back to the grindstone by continuing our excavations at the Ridgeline and the Mueller Little House Sites!