Mesa Verde National Park features large and well preserved cliff dwellings, such as Spruce Tree House, above. These dwellings were constructed in about 1200 AD. All of the dwellings in the area were deserted between 1280 and 1300 A.D. No one knows why for sure, but a widespread drought about that time was probably at least part of the reason that these ancient people moved on.
There are several kivas, which may have been used as gathering places for social or sacred functions.
Note the T-shape (larger on top than on the bottom) of some of the doorways. These may have been designed to allow entry for someone carrying a large load, or perhaps they marked shared or sacred rooms.
We also saw the Cliff Palace from a distance. It's larger than Spruce Tree House. We would have enjoyed exploring it, but we were running out of daylight.
The Mesa Verde Museum, located at the beginning of Spruce Tree House trail, contains an amazing collection of pottery found in the area. This large vessel was filled with corn kernels when found in a cave nearby, and topped with the lid shown to the left.
Here's the sign displayed with the corn exhibit.
There are numerous glass cases of pottery. I like the double mugs,
and the duck and the 3 lobed pot,
as well as the colorful pot and the deer/mountain sheep design.
We continued our exploration of the Four Corners region in Southwest Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
Can you see the tower in the middle of the photo? That's the Painted Hand pueblo, dating from about 1200 AD.
Here is the tower in a closer view.
Several dwellings existed in this area, as well as the tower, which may have served as an advanced lookout for the nearby Hovenweap village.
A room whose walls have mostly fallen is located under the castle.
My intrepid explorers found a pattery shard with a basket weave motif.
Faint painted hands still exist there. The pictographs are faded, but you may see the faint outline.
We also hiked the Sand Canyon trail. The sandstone formations above are along the trail.
The ruins along the trail blend in with the sandstone walls.
Up close, we had a better view.
Perhaps the most interesting sighting was a cave that we spotted from the trail. The cave was across a deep canyon, too far for us to reach in our limited time, and probably not accessible by any trail.
With binoculars, we were able to see a pueblo inside.