Cliffside Palace, Mesa Verde, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park is a U.S. National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Montezuma County, Colorado. It protects some of the best preserved Ancestral Puebloan archeological sites in the United States.
The park was created by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. It occupies 52,485 acres (21,240 ha) near the Four Corners region, and with more than 4,000 sites and 600 cliff dwellings, it is the largest archeological preserve in the US. Mesa Verde (Spanish for “green table”) is best known for structures such as Cliff Palace, thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America.
The Mesa Verdeans survived by utilizing a combination of hunting, gathering, and subsistence farming of crops such as corn, beans, and squash. They built the mesa’s first pueblos sometime after 650, and by the end of the 12th century they began to construct the massive cliff dwellings for which the park is best known. By 1285, following a period of social and environmental instability driven by a series of severe and prolonged droughts, they abandoned the area and moved south to locations in Arizona and New Mexico, including Rio Chama, Pajarito Plateau, and Santa Fe.