Mesa Verde
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Mesa Verde

Site Information

Country: United States of America
State: Colorado
Location: 37° 17' 24" N - 108° 27' 14" W
Field Documentation Date(s): June 1st, 2005
Project Release Date(s): September 15th, 2006
Time Range: 600 CE - 1300 CE
Era: Prehistoric, Basketmakers, Modified Basket-Makers, Developmental Pueblo, Classic Pueblo
Culture: Anasazi, Ancestral Puebloans
Site Authority: U.S. National Park Service
Heritage Listing: National Register of Historic Places
UNESCO World Heritage Site
world map with location

3D reconstruction of the Cliff Palace.  This is an interpretation of what Mesa Verde may have looked like during its heyday.

Site Description

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The great Mesa Verde is 25 miles long with cliffs that reach 2,000 feet above the Mancos and Montezuma valley floors. Located in south-west Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park contains over 600 cliff dwellings, with adobe pit houses, pueblo structures, and stone towers, and an additional 4,100 archaeological sites. Many of these sites, such as Spruce Tree House, Square Tower House and Fire Temple, were built towards the end of the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of the mesa. Hidden under large cliff overhangs, it is clear that they provided protection from the elements and were likely defensive postures. Each cliff dwelling was adapted to the topography of its alcove, making the hundreds of archaeological sites unique.
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History

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Mesa Verde

The Colorado mesa, Mesa Verde, was chosen as the settling point for a group of nomadic people named Anasazi (meaning "Ancient Ones") by the Navajo, Hisatsinom by the Hopi, and Ancestral Puebloans by the NPS. These Indians occupied the mesa top for approximately 600 years before they began building their most famous remnants: the cliff dwellings.

Mesa Verde National Park's archaeological sites span over 700 years of Native American history, being inhabited from 600 - 1300 CE. The renowned cliff dwellings, the height of the Puebloans' architecture, include more than 600 units. Yet many of these structures were being built at the time the first Anasazi began to leave. Over the span of two generations, the site was abandoned. The reasons are unclear as the Anasazi left no written records; however, it is known that a drought struck the area in 1276 and lasted for 23 years. This drought, in addition to what may have been a depletion of resources after 600 years of occupation, most likely led the people of Mesa Verde to abandon their cliff dwellings.
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Spruce Tree House

Within the 700-year occupation at Mesa Verde, the history of Spruce Tree House is relatively short and late, occurring from 1211 to 1278. Spruce Tree House was built at the height of the region's population, when their numbers were beginning to negatively impact the area's resources - game, arable land, and water to sustain the inhabitants. A 23-year drought brought environmental catastrophe and gradual exodus. Spruce Tree House existed as a community for little more than two generations. Nevertheless, it left a built legacy that is one of the greatest antiquities in North America.
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Square Tower House

Square Tower House was occupied between 1205-1281 CE. It contains one of the latest construction projects at Mesa Verde, the Crow’s Nest, which was built high in a crevice in the cliff face. Square Tower House was built at the height of the region's population, when their numbers were beginning to negatively impact the area's resources. It is believed that many factors, including a 23-year drought, resource depletion, and social pressures led the people to gradually migrate south to the Rio Grande area, leaving the Mesa Verde region largely depopulated and abandoned. Square Tower House existed as a community for little more than two generations. Nevertheless, it left a built legacy that is one of the greatest antiquities in North America.
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Fire Temple

While archaeological evidence points to the construction and primary use of Fire Temple as being late in the chronology of Mesa Verde (1200 CE - 1300 CE), its religious significance likely has far deeper roots in the belief systems of Puebloan peoples. Fewkes believed that both Fire Temple and the nearby Sun Temple were linked with sun-fire-serpent worship in the service of fertility and agricultural productivity, as practiced by the inhabitants of Mesa Verde. Evidence indicates that the inhabitants of nearby New Fire House may have been the tenders of the 'eternal flame' of Fire Temple, whose large central fire pit was seemingly kept burning at all times for both religious and practical use.

Fire Temple's open areas and buildings may have been used for ritual gatherings of dancers and worshipers seeking to harness the spiritual power of fire, while the more easily-accessible Sun Temple may have been the scene of more large-scale worship practices. Paintings from Fire Temple also depict ritual practice and symbols linking the ceremonies performed here with the New-Fire ceremonies of modern Hopi people. Most striking are the similarities found in images of the phallic, fire-associated supernatural being Kokopelli. Fire Temple fell into disuse and abandonment in the late 1200s, as did the surrounding communities at Mesa Verde.
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Aerial view of Spruce Tree House, created from laser scan data

Project Narrative

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Mesa Verde

Texas Tech University, the University of California at Berkeley, CyArk, and INSIGHT worked on a pilot project in June 2005 to emulate current National Park Service (NPS) documentation techniques with new digital technologies in order to demonstrate to the NPS the advantages and capabilities of high definition survey and documentation. Over the course of three years, CyArk and their partners digitally preserved three alcove sites at Mesa Verde National Park: Spruce Tree House, Square Tower House and Fire Temple.

The data set included HDS, close-range Laser Scanning, panoramic photography, HDR photography, traditional survey, and GPS survey. The project was funded by the Kacyra Family Foundation.
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Spruce Tree House

Texas Tech University, the University of California at Berkeley, CyArk, and INSIGHT worked on a pilot project in June 2005 to emulate current National Park Service (NPS) documentation techniques with new digital methods and to demonstrate the advantages and capabilities of High Definition Documentation (HDD), a survey documentation method that integrates high definition laser scanning with high resolution photography and other advanced documentation methods. Spruce Tree House was the subject for study, and the team produced a dataset for most of the site, as well as for some of the artifacts housed in the museum. In May 2006 Texas Tech returned to Spruce Tree House to collect additional data. The final dataset included HDS, close-range Laser Scanning, panoramic photography, HDR photography, traditional survey, and GPS survey. The project was funded by the Kacyra Family Foundation and the Pring Capital Group.
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Square Tower House

CyArk team members Ben Kacyra and Elizabeth Lee initially traveled to Mesa Verde National Park as part of an on location shoot for the new PBS show, Wired Science. In addition to giving interviews about CyArk's mission and documentation methods, the team executed High Definition Documentation of Square Tower House. This alcove site, with its dramatic setting and need for documentation and structural analysis, proved to be the perfect location for the shoot. The HDD equipment had to be lowered over 100 feet down to the site, and team members had to descend using hand ropes, ladders and steps carved into the rock face. In December 2006, the site suffered damage when part of the rock face sheared off and crushed part of the site. Mesa Verde Park Service staff were anxious to document the site and see what other structural damage may have been caused by the rock fall. As a result most of the documentation was centered around the four-story tall Square Tower.
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Fire Temple

Texas Tech University, College of Architecture (TTU), with participation of CyArk, designed this project to be a training opportunity for National Park Service staff in the theory and practice of High Definition Documentation (HDD). The project was supported by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT). TTU conducted a presentation and a two week on-site training workshop covering all aspects of HDD at Mesa Verde National Park for staff and administrators of the Vanishing Treasures program.

The on site training and documentation workshop occurred during May 2007 at MEVE and gave hands on experience in HDD technologies and methods to over 20 National Park Service employees. This experience included on site field data collection at the Fire Temple cliff dwelling, using 3D laser scanning, GPS surveying and high resolution digital photography. The NPS attendees also participated in hands-on data processing of the data collected on site. The attendees created a variety of derivative media from the data they collected on site. This media included 2D archaeological maps and interpretive media such as high resolution photographic panoramas. During the May training period, TTU also gave a 2 day seminar on the principles, concepts and methods of HDD for staff and administrative executives from Mesa Verde and other visiting parks. Six months later, in addition, TTU and CyArk conducted a 2 day, three hour per day webinar on HDD for the National Park Service and other internationally invited guests.

The data collected at Fire Temple was processed into a variety of media by TTU, such as Level 2 archaeological maps of Fire Temple, including a site plan map and several site sections. Maps of every surface on the site were also developed from the 3D laser scan data that included the surface boundary, large features and openings. Ten of these surface maps were developed to a Level 1 status, using the scan data and photogrammetry techniques. TTU also processed 4 high dynamic range (HDR) panoramas of the site, and a low polygon virtual representation. CyArk added additional media.
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3D point cloud of Kiva H

Preservation

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Mesa Verde

After the site's discovery in 1874, Mesa Verde was heavily pillaged by collectors as the site was known to have weaving, wickerwork and ceramics of remarkable quality. However, in 1906 the site became protected under the Federal Antiquities Act, making it one of the world's best managed natural, biological and archaeological reserves.
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Spruce Tree House

After Spruce Tree House's discovery in 1888, it suffered from the same looting that was experienced at other sites in Mesa Verde. This era of rampant looting was ended officially in 1906 with the Federal Antiquities Act. In 1919, Jesse Walter Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution began systematic excavation, restoration, and reconstruction at Spruce Tree House. Though some of Fewkes's restoration practices might be considered questionable by today's standards, his legacy in preserving Spruce Tree House is nevertheless commendable. As Mesa Verde's most visited site with thousands of visitors a year, Spruce Tree House is the focus of constant preservation and maintenance efforts by the National Park Service staff.
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Square Tower House

After Square Tower House's discovery in 1888, it suffered from the same looting that was experienced at other sites in Mesa Verde. This era of rampant looting was ended officially in 1906 with the Federal Antiquities Act, and that same year with the establishment of Mesa Verde National Park. In 1919, Jesse Walter Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution began to systematically excavate and stabilize many of Mesa Verde's cliff dwellings. He worked at the Park over the span of a decade and excavated and stabilized 15 sites that were then opened for public visitation, including Square Tower House. Though some of Fewkes's restoration practices might be considered questionable by today's standards, his legacy in preserving Square Tower House is nevertheless commendable. As one of Mesa Verde's most photographed sites with thousands of visitors a year, Square Tower House is the focus of constant preservation and maintenance efforts by National Park Service staff.

In December, 2006 a large boulder detached from the alcove face in Square Tower House and damaged a two story structure and a kiva. This natural process is ongoing and helped to form the alcoves over thousands of years. The Mesa Verde Preservation Crew is currently working to stabilize the damaged structures in their current state. The mission of the National Park Service is to protect these structures, not rebuild them. Thus, these structures will be stabilized to prevent further collapse, but the walls will not be rebuilt to their previous state.
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Fire Temple

After Fire Temple's discovery in 1888, it suffered from the same looting that was experienced at other sites in Mesa Verde. This era of rampant looting was ended officially in 1906 with the Federal Antiquities Act and the establishment of Mesa Verde National Park in that same year. Jesse Walter Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution led the excavation, restoration, and reconstruction projects at many of the sites now open to the public at Mesa Verde. The research by Fewkes stands still today as the foundation for much of what we know about Fire Temple. Fewkes's research has since been augmented by archaeological work done by Francis Cassidy in 1960.

Today, some of Fire Temple's invaluable paintings and structures have sustained considerable damage from exposure to the elements. It is vital that thorough documentation accompanies modern preservation practice in order to ensure that Fire Temple's cultural treasures are available for future generations.
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Area Descriptions

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Spruce Tree House
Kiva A
Kiva B
Kiva C
Kiva D
Kiva E
Kiva F
Kiva G
Kiva H
Main Street
Open Area 19
Open Area 23
Room 01
Room 03
Room 04
Room 11
Room 15
Room 26
Room 30
Room 33
Room 34
Room 35
Room 36
Room 43
Room 44
Room 45
Room 54
Room 62
Room 65
Room 69
Room 87
Square Tower House
Kiva A
Kiva B
Kiva C
Kiva D
Kiva E
Kiva F
Kiva G
Room 01
Room 02, 03
Room 04
Room 05
Room 06
Room 07, 08
Room 09, 10
Room 11, 12
Room 13, 14
Room 15
Room 16
Room 17
Room 18, 19
Room 20
Room 21
Room 22
Room 23, 24
Room 25, 26, 27
Room 28
Room 29
Room 34
Room 35, 36, 37
Room 38, 39, 40
Room 41, 42
Room 43, 44
Room 45
Square Tower
Room 30
Room 31
Room 32
Room 33
Fire Temple
Kiva A
Hearth
Pit 1
Pit 2
Pit 3
Vault 1
Vault 2
Open Area 1
Open Area 2
Room 1, 2, 3
Room 4, 10
Room 5, 11
Room 6
Room 7
Room 8
Room 9
Ventilation Shaft

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House Description:

Spruce Tree House is the third largest and the most visited site at Mesa Verde National Park. It is located below Chapin Mesa within a sandstone alcove on the eastern side of Spruce Tree Canyon. A nearby spring provided a source of water to the ancient inhabitants. Spruce Tree House is considered Mesa Verde's best preserved cliff dwelling with a length of 66m (216ft) and width of 27m (89ft) at its widest section. The cliff dwelling contains 114 rooms and eight kivas. Some of the rooms served as habitations and some as storage, but all were typically constructed of sand stone with adobe mud mortar.

Kiva is a Hopi word for ceremonial room, and at Mesa Verde they tend to be round in plan and underground. Here they are located in the front zone of the cliff dwelling. A transversal "street" running east-west divides the complex into a north and a south compound. At the rear are two large dark recesses that served for refuse and burial. It is estimated that Spruce Tree House was home to about 80 inhabitants.


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Kiva A

Kiva A Description:

Kiva A is the most prodigious kiva as it is built directly under the cliff so that the cliff forms part of its walls, it has a partial double-wall as a room built within a room, and it was built on top of a large boulder so its walls and the floor levels of surrounding, adjacent rooms were raised to make it appear subterranean.


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Kiva B

Kiva B Description:

Kivas are a standard feature of Ancestral Puebloan settlements and are also known as "pit houses". They are generally subterranean in part if not entirely, and likely served a variety of purposes including religious use.


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Kiva C

Kiva C Description:

Kiva C and Kiva D are located in jointly in the largest plaza, Plaza C. The kiva also has a lateral opening that creates a vertical passageway into the middle of the neighboring plaza.


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Kiva D

Kiva D Description:

Kiva D has two openings, one in the east wall and one in the south wall that connects it directly to Room 26. It has been partially reconstructed with modern timber supports.


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Kiva E

Kiva E Description:

Kiva E has a passageway that leads to steps near an opening in the floor of Room 35.


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Kiva F

Kiva F Description:

Kiva F is located outside the retaining wall along with Kiva B. It is large in size which may imply importance, although all evidence indicates late construction. Peculiarly, the ventilation opening is at the south end of the kiva as opposed to the west end, where it is located in the other kivas.


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Kiva G

Kiva G Description:

Kiva G lies just below and in front of the circular tower, Room 54, which may imply importance. The floor is solid stone and had been cut down eight inches. Kiva G is the most well preserved kiva at Spruce Tree House.


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Kiva H

Kiva H Description:

The largest kiva in Spruce Tree House, Kiva H is oval rather than circular. The kiva's walls were the most decayed of all the kivas and it was filled with fragmentary remains from the walls of Rooms 62 and 63.


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Main Street

Main Street Description:

The only real "corridor" that runs through Spruce Tree House from the front facade to the back wall. Officially "Open Area 18."


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Open Area 19

Open Area 19 Description:

Open Area 19 was previously considered Refuse B, but has undergone a re-evaluation of the use of the room and is no longer considered to have been merely a refuse depository.


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Open Area 23

Open Area 23 Description:

Located at the far south end of Spruce Tree House, Open Area 23 is a small triangular plaza south of Room 69 and in front of Rooms 70, 85, and 86.


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Room 01

Room 01 Description:

The floor of Room 1 is actually about level to the second floor of other rooms at the site because it was built upon a fallen boulder.


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Room 03

Room 03 Description:

The western wall of this room is considerably high because it was built upon a fallen boulder.


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Room 04

Room 04 Description:

This room lies in front of Kiva A and is at the same level as the Kiva's roof as opposed to the neighboring plaza. This elevated nature of the room shows that it was desirable to make Kiva A appear subterranean by building up the walls and rooms around it.


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Room 11

Room 11 Description:

This room contains low walls that project into Plaza C.


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Room 15

Room 15 Description:

The front wall of Room 15 is almost entirely gone. It is irregular in shape and its doorways open into Rooms 14 and 16.


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Room 26

Room 26 Description:

When excavations and repair work were conducted on site in 1908, the lower-story wall was in excellent condition and little work was needed. The west wall of this room is curved, it contains a fireplace in the northeast corner of the room, and there is a passageway between the room and Kiva D.


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Room 30

Room 30 Description:

Rooms 30-44 have the most substantial masonry and are the most superbly constructed rooms. This room is only one story in height, rectangular in shape, roofless, and similar in dimensions to rooms 31-36.


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Room 33

Room 33 Description:

Rooms 30-44 have the most substantial masonry and are the most superbly constructed rooms. This room is only one story in height, rectangular in shape, roofless, and similar in dimensions to rooms 31-36.


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Room 34

Room 34 Description:

Rooms 30-44 have the most substantial masonry and are the most superbly constructed rooms. This room is only one story in height, rectangular in shape, roofless, and similar in dimensions to rooms 30-36.


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Room 35

Room 35 Description:

Rooms 30-44 have the most substantial masonry and are the most superbly constructed rooms with room 35 being the most well preserved. This room is only one story in height, rectangular in shape, roofless, and similar in dimensions to rooms 30-36.


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Room 36

Room 36 Description:

Rooms 30-44 have the most substantial masonry and are the most superbly constructed rooms. This room is only one story in height, rectangular in shape, roofless, and similar in dimensions to rooms 31-35.


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Room 43

Room 43 Description:

Rooms 30-44 have the most substantial masonry and are the most superbly constructed rooms. Rooms 43 and 44 had roofs and floors almost as well preserved as when originally built when excavations took place in 1908


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Room 44

Room 44 Description:

Rooms 30-44 have the most substantial masonry and are the most superbly constructed rooms. Rooms 43 and 44 had roofs and floors almost as well preserved as when originally built when excavations took place in 1908.


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Room 45

Room 45 Description:

A small hallway or "alley" adjacent to room 44.


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Room 54

Room 54 Description:

Room 54 is circular in shape and resembles the "tower" of Cliff Palace yet its doorways are only at single story height. It has a fire hold, which suggests it was ceremonially used.


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Room 62

Room 62 Description:

Room 62 borders Kiva H, the largest kiva on site. Fragments of this two-story room's walls had fallen into the kiva.


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Room 65

Room 65 Description:

Room 65 is a single-story room located in the south-end of Spruce Tree House.


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Room 69

Room 69 Description:

Room 69 is circular in shape and formed a bastion at the south end of the front wall; when the site was excavated in 1908 only the foundation of the room remained and the walls were difficult to locate.


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Room 87

Room 87 Description:

Room 87 is located along "Main Street" and its south-west corner forms the entry-way to Open Area 19 (formerly Refuse B).


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Square Tower House

Square Tower House Description:

Square Tower House is located on the western side of Chapin Mesa overlooking Navajo Canyon. Like many cliff dwelling sites, it is located in a south facing alcove that optimized the winter sun and warmth for its inhabitants. The site is unique in that it is the only one that has two kivas with their original roof structures intact. It also contains the tallest structure anywhere at Mesa Verde, Square Tower, which is 26 feet tall and has four levels. Originally there were over 80 rooms. Today there are remains of 60 rooms and 7 kivas, two of which are still partially covered by their original roof construction. A spring below provided water to the ancient inhabitants. Hand and toe holds carved into the sandstone cliff face and ladders provided access to the cliff dwelling as well as to the mesa top where dry farming was practiced.

Square Tower House contains one of the latest construction projects at Mesa Verde, the Crow’s Nest, which was built high in a crevice in the cliff face. This is a distinct architectural form only found here. It is speculated that increasing social tensions occurred during the 1200s. Violence between different populations in the region may have led the people at Square Tower House to construct these seemingly defensive structures.


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Kiva A

Kiva A Description:

Located at the southwestern edge of the Square Tower House cliff dwelling, Kiva A is smaller than Kiva B and has two slight depressions in the stone floor that probably mark where a wooden ladder rested. Many layers of brown plaster coat the walls of this Kiva. Within there is also the standard fireplace and sipapu - a hole in the center of the floor that was of ceremonial significance.


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Kiva B

Kiva B Description:

Kiva B is the largest Kiva at Square Tower House, measuring 16 feet 9 inches in diameter. It has around half of its original roof in place. It is one of two Kivas, along with Kiva F, with a roof at the site. Since Kiva B is located against the western alcove rear wall of the site, it sustained some damage from the early 2007 rock fall that also damaged Rooms 2 and 3 located between Kiva B and Kiva A.


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Kiva C

Kiva C Description:

Kiva C is surrounded by sandstone paving slabs and is located in the central front of the site. Kiva is a Hopi word for ceremonial room, and at Mesa Verde Kivas tend to be round in plan and underground. A ventilator shaft extends up from its southern paved area. Moisture infiltration has rendered Kiva C's mortar very unstable, and it is not in good condition.


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Kiva D

Kiva D Description:

Kiva D was built alongside the alcove wall at the center of the site. It is surrounded by open plazas, and is in good condition.


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Kiva E

Kiva E Description:

Kiva E is enclosed by Rooms 15-21 and the alcove wall, and has a tunnel leading into Room 21. Its plaster and mortar are in fair to poor condition.


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Kiva F

Kiva F Description:

Kiva F is one of two structures at Square Tower House site that have parts of their ceilings intact, along with Kiva B. Kiva F is a large Kiva bordering the Square Tower House structure, with a ventilation shaft to the south.


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Kiva G

Kiva G Description:

Kiva G is located against the easternmost rear wall of the alcove, and has a ventilation shaft emerging in the open area to its south. Near its hearth is a large vertical slab rather than the single wall course found in other Kivas at Square Tower House. Kiva G is in good condition.


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Room 01

Room 01 Description:

Room 1 is a small masonry surface room that adjoins the south wall of Room 2. It received a great deal of damage during the 2007 rock fall.


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Room 02, 03

Room 02, 03 Description:

Rooms 2 and 3 are a two-story complex of smaller masonry rooms situated against the alcove wall at the western end of the site. They sustained severe damage during the 2007 rock fall, along with Kiva B.


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Room 04

Room 04 Description:

Room 4 is a masonry room located at the front of the site immediately to the east of Kiva A. All visible masonry exposures appear to have been reconstructed with Portland cement, as was the preference of Jesse Walter Fewkes during his early 20th century restoration work.


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Room 05

Room 05 Description:

Room 5 has double sandstone courses on its south and west walls.


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Room 06

Room 06 Description:

Room 6 is a small room adjoining Kiva C, Room 5, and the two-level structure containing Rooms 7 and 8.


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Room 07, 08

Room 07, 08 Description:

Rooms 7 (lower) and 8 (upper), as well as Rooms 9 (lower) and 10 (upper) are two-level structures bordering each other to the north/south and sandwiched between Kivas B and C to the west/east. The plaza for Kiva D lies to the north.


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Room 09, 10

Room 09, 10 Description:

Rooms 9 (lower) and 10 (upper), as well as Rooms 7 (lower) and 8 (upper), are two-level structures bordering each other to the north/south and sandwiched between Kivas B and C to the west/east. The plaza for Kiva D lies to the north.


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Room 11, 12

Room 11, 12 Description:

Room 11 is below Room 12, against the alcove wall to the north above Kiva B.


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Room 13, 14

Room 13, 14 Description:

Room 13 is below Room 14, bordering Kiva C to the west and rooms 15 and 16 to the north and east, respectively.


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Room 15

Room 15 Description:

Room 15 borders Kiva E to the east, Kiva D to the west, and rooms 14 and 15 to the south. It is in excellent condition, with most of its construction materials being original rather than reconstructions.


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Room 16

Room 16 Description:

Room 16 lies south of Kiva E, sandwiched between room 17 and rooms 13 and 14.


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Room 17

Room 17 Description:

Room 17 is south of the Kiva E plaza, with the two-story Rooms 18 and 19 bordering to the north and Room 16 to the south.


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Room 18, 19

Room 18, 19 Description:

Room 18 is below Room 19, southeast of Kiva E and directly south of Room 20. Room 22 is to the east. The wall separating these rooms is at high risk of collapse.


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Room 20

Room 20 Description:

Room 20 is partially built atop two boulders. Kiva E lies to the west.


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Room 21

Room 21 Description:

Room 21 has a tunnel on its west side leading to Kiva E. This tunnel was perhaps a small opening in the past but is currently a large void in the wall.


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Room 22

Room 22 Description:

Room 22 is built partially atop a large boulder and is located immediately to the southwest of the tower, and shares its north wall with Rooms 22 and 23.


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Room 23, 24

Room 23, 24 Description:

Rooms 23 (lower) and 24 (upper) are a two-story complex located to the south and west of the Square Tower House.


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Room 25, 26, 27

Room 25, 26, 27 Description:

Rooms 25 (bottom), 26 (middle) and 27 (top) form a three-story structure to the west of the Square Tower House. They are in a ruined condition, but were likely part of the original tower complex.


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Room 28

Room 28 Description:

Room 28 is built partially atop a large boulder towards the central front (south) of the complex, to the south of Kiva F. Its east wall is missing a large chunk.


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Room 29

Room 29 Description:

Room 29 is a large room that lies at the southern foot of the Square House Tower, as well as directly to the west of Kiva F.


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Room 34

Room 34 Description:

Room 34 is situated in the front eastern portion of the alcove, south of Kiva F. It lies at the foot of the three-level structure with Rooms 35-37, and is in good condition.


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Room 35, 36, 37

Room 35, 36, 37 Description:

Bordering Kiva F to the west and Kiva G to the east, the tightly clustered building complex in this area has the remnants of three-story construction next to Kiva F(Rooms 35-37 and 38-40) and two-story construction in the middle and near Kiva G (Rooms 43-44 and 41-42). There is also a one-story building with Room 45 inside, directly bordering Kiva G.


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Room 38, 39, 40

Room 38, 39, 40 Description:

Bordering Kiva F to the west and Kiva G to the east, the tightly clustered building complex in this area has the remnants of three-story construction next to Kiva F(Rooms 35-37 and 38-40) and two-story construction in the middle and near Kiva G (Rooms 43-44 and 41-42). There is also a one-story building with Room 45 inside, directly bordering Kiva G.


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Room 41, 42

Room 41, 42 Description:

Bordering Kiva F to the west and Kiva G to the east, the tightly clustered building complex in this area has the remnants of three-story construction next to Kiva F(Rooms 35-37 and 38-40) and two-story construction in the middle and near Kiva G (Rooms 43-44 and 41-42). There is also a one-story building with Room 45 inside, directly bordering Kiva G.


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Room 43, 44

Room 43, 44 Description:

Bordering Kiva F to the west and Kiva G to the east, the tightly clustered building complex in this area has the remnants of three-story construction next to Kiva F(Rooms 35-37 and 38-40) and two-story construction in the middle and near Kiva G (Rooms 43-44 and 41-42). There is also a one-story building with Room 45 inside, directly bordering Kiva G.


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Room 45

Room 45 Description:

Bordering Kiva F to the west and Kiva G to the east, the tightly clustered building complex in this area has the remnants of three-story construction next to Kiva F(Rooms 35-37 and 38-40) and two-story construction in the middle and near Kiva G (Rooms 43-44 and 41-42). There is also a one-story building with Room 45 inside, directly bordering Kiva G.


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Square Tower

Square Tower Description:

The sandstone masonry tower for which the site is named rises a slender four stories tall to 26 feet (8 meters), marking the center of the site plan in a visually striking manner that distinguishes the Square Tower as the Park's tallest standing structure. This tower is one of the last remnants of what was a multistory cliff dwelling complex. Many other stone structures rising around it collapsed long ago leaving it standing in majestic solitude.


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Room 30

Room 30 Description:

Rooms 30-33 comprise the Square Tower House for which the site is named. This tower is one of the last remnants of what was a multistory cliff dwelling complex. It is in good condition but must be periodically evaluated to make sure it does not collapse.


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Room 31

Room 31 Description:

Rooms 30-33 comprise the Square Tower House for which the site is named. This tower is one of the last remnants of what was a multistory cliff dwelling complex. It is in good condition but must be periodically evaluated to make sure it does not collapse.


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Room 32

Room 32 Description:

Rooms 30-33 comprise the Square Tower House for which the site is named. This tower is one of the last remnants of what was a multistory cliff dwelling complex. It is in good condition but must be periodically evaluated to make sure it does not collapse.


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Room 33

Room 33 Description:

Rooms 30-33 comprise the Square Tower House for which the site is named. This tower is one of the last remnants of what was a multistory cliff dwelling complex. It is in good condition but must be periodically evaluated to make sure it does not collapse.


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Fire Temple

Fire Temple Description:

Fire Temple is located 100 feet below the mesa top in Fewkes Canyon. It was once known as Painted House because of the large number of pictographs and red and white clay-plastered walls found there. It is one of only two sites occupied during Pueblo III (950-1300 CE) at Mesa Verde National Park. Fire Temple is believed to have been used only for religious purposes.

The most significant archaeological feature of Fire Temple is a 42 feet-long interior court referred to by many modern Hopi people and archaeologists as a kiva because of the apparent ceremonial nature of its architectural features and links to Hopi practice today. Kivas are typically round and smaller the one found at Fire Temple. Therefore its rectangular shape and considerable size sets it apart from Mesa Verde's kiva typology. Kivas are also typically covered, and the space within this one apparently reached a height of 10 feet.

At the center of the court is a circular fire pit measuring 4 feet 9 inches in diameter. Some of the surfaces surrounding the central fire pit are elaborately decorated with red figures of humans and animals. The fire pit is thought to have contained a large flame kept burning for fire ceremonies. This flame is believed to have been tended by keepers who resided in the two nearby alcoves of New Fire House. Flanking the central kiva court are ruins of two large buildings, flat open areas beyond, and foundations of another structure further to the west with an unexcavated circular kiva. A masonry wall to the back of the alcove has painted designs reminiscent of the geometric images and symbols found on the pottery of the Puebloan peoples who lived in the area.

With no evidence of domestic habitation, Fire Temple was classified by Smithsonian Institution archaeologist Jesse Walter Fewkes as being a religious edifice related to Sun Temple, which is located on the mesa top 500 yards to the east and the only other recognized structure in Mesa Verde believed to have been wholly for ceremonial use. But as a cliff structure, Fire Temple is different in plan from the free standing Sun Temple. Due to preservation concerns, Fire Temple is not accessible to visitors today but is viewable from the mesa top.


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Kiva A

Kiva A Description:

Kiva is a Puebloan term for ceremonial rooms, and most of the Kivas at Mesa Verde are round in form and subterranean. The entire courtyard of Fire Temple itself is defined as a Great Kiva by both modern Puebloans such as the Hopi and by archaeologists due to its design and entirely non-domestic function. However, since Fire Temple was at least partially built to conform to the dimensions of the cliff alcove in which it was built, it is neither round in form nor truly subterranean. Along the southern terminus of Kiva A are the foundations of an original wall or a stepped bench. Archaeologists have disagreed over the years as to whether this represents an enclosure to the Fire Temple's Kiva, or whether it would have been open at the front perhaps to keep its prominent fire hearth visible from some distance away.

Kiva A's walls were originally covered in white paint, with black and red geometric designs and symbols on it that are very similar to those found on black and white pottery found in Mesa Verde from the same time period. Due to exposure to the elements over time only scattered remnants of this paint remain intact and most of the designs are faded.


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Hearth

Hearth Description:

This circular masonry hearth is slightly over a foot in height, measures 4 feet 9 inches in outside diameter and 2 feet 9 inches interior diameter. It is at the center of Fire Temple, and archaeologist J.W. Fewkes believed that this hearth was where an 'eternal flame' for fire ceremonies burned, owing to the great quantity of ashes dating over a long time frame excavated from it.


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Pit 1

Pit 1 Description:

This pit is oval in shape, is lined with dry masonry on three sides, and has surface measurements of 4 feet by 2 feet 7 inches.
It was cut in the hard-packed adobe floor, and is one of three partly masonry-lined pits in the main Kiva area cleared during excavations in 1951.


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Pit 2

Pit 2 Description:

This pit is D shaped, its north side is bedrock, three rocks line the west side, and it measures 1 foot 6 inches by 1 foot 9 inches at its greatest extent. It was cut in the hard-packed adobe floor, and is one of three partly masonry-lined pits in the main Kiva area cleared during excavations in 1951.


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Pit 3

Pit 3 Description:

This pit is oblong, measures 1 foot 4 inches wide by 2 feet 9 inches long, and has 3 stones embedded in its south wall. It was cut in the hard-packed adobe floor, and is one of three partly masonry-lined pits in the main Kiva area cleared during excavations in 1951.


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Vault 1

Vault 1 Description:

This is the larger (5 and a half feet wide by 18 feet long) of two partially subfloor masonry boxes on the east and west sides of Kiva A's north-south axis. Its interior is divided into two halves of nearly equal width by a thin partition wall. Both vaults are positioned in the same manner as the vaults or foot drums are in the Great Kivas of the region.


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Vault 2

Vault 2 Description:

This is the smaller (5 and a half feet wide by 12 and a half feet long) of two partially subfloor masonry boxes on the east and west sides of Kiva A's north-south axis. The thickness of this vault's masonry walls reduces its interior dimensions to a single rectangle 2 feet wide by 6 and a half inches long, with a narrow masonry bench at each end. The exterior south wall contains a recessed niche. Both vaults are positioned in the same manner as the vaults or foot drums are in the Great Kivas of the region.


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Open Area 1

Open Area 1 Description:

The two open areas around Kiva A (the Fire Temple) are flat and large, capable of holding a fairly large number of people. Archaeologist J.W. Fewkes and others believed these areas were used for dancing and other community purposes, including ceremonies similar to the 'New Fire' rites practiced by modern Pueblo peoples such as the Hopi.


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Open Area 2

Open Area 2 Description:

This area lies in between Kiva A (Fire Temple courtyard) and the small building complex of rooms 6-9 to the west with their unexcavated Kiva. Both of the open areas around Kiva A are flat and large, capable of holding a fairly large number of people. Archaeologist J.W. Fewkes and others believed these areas were used for dancing and other community purposes, including ceremonies similar to the 'New Fire' rites practiced by modern Pueblo peoples such as the Hopi.


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Room 1, 2, 3

Room 1, 2, 3 Description:

Rooms 1 and 2 are both two-story rooms extending up to the alcove ceiling, while only fragments remain of Room 3 to the south. Near the cave wall, there was at least one and maybe two original openings into Kiva A to the east. They are bordered within Kiva A by two masonry benches with rubble fill; the lower of which extends the entire length of the Kiva while the upper one extends from the northern wall about 6 feet to a masonry column. Both outside and, particularly, inside the Kiva, these rooms exhibit evidence of much painting.


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Room 4, 10

Room 4, 10 Description:

Rooms 4 (lower) and 10 (upper) make up a two-story structure adjoining the north cave wall and ceiling, though Rooms 10 and 11 were originally one long room that received a partition wall during the excavations in 1920 to stabilize the structure. Room 4 has two large openings coming from Kiva A and leading into its chamber, separated by a masonry column. They are bordered by a short rectangular bench on the inside of the Kiva.

Within the rooms were found painted images of humans, animals, ritual gatherings, and a supernatural figure (phallic in shape and carrying a bow) thought to be some manifestation of the modern Hopi deity Kokopelli. These designs were in red and black paint on a white background. Due to exposure to the elements over time only scattered remnants of this paint remain intact and most of the designs are faded.


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Room 5, 11

Room 5, 11 Description:

Rooms 4 (lower) and 10 (upper) make up a two-story structure adjoining the north cave wall and ceiling, though Rooms 10 and 11 were originally one long room that received a partition wall during the excavations in 1920 to stabilize the structure. Room 4 has two large openings coming from Kiva A and leading into its chamber, separated by a masonry column. They are bordered by a short rectangular bench on the inside of the Kiva.

Within the rooms were found painted images of humans, animals, ritual gatherings, and a supernatural figure (phallic in shape and carrying a bow) thought to be some manifestation of the modern Hopi deity Kokopelli. These designs were in red and black paint on a white background. Due to exposure to the elements over time only scattered remnants of this paint remain intact and most of the designs are faded.


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Room 6

Room 6 Description:

Rooms 6-9 are the remaining foundations of a small building complex to the West of Kiva A (Fire Temple courtyard), with Open Area 2 in between. They adjoin a small circular Kiva, which has not been excavated.


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Room 7

Room 7 Description:

Rooms 6-9 are the remaining foundations of a small building complex to the West of Kiva A (Fire Temple courtyard), with Open Area 2 in between. They adjoin a small circular Kiva, which has not been excavated.


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Room 8

Room 8 Description:

Rooms 6-9 are the remaining foundations of a small building complex to the West of Kiva A (Fire Temple courtyard), with Open Area 2 in between. They adjoin a small circular Kiva, which has not been excavated.


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Room 9

Room 9 Description:

Rooms 6-9 are the remaining foundations of a small building complex to the West of Kiva A (Fire Temple courtyard), with Open Area 2 in between. They adjoin a small circular Kiva, which has not been excavated.


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Ventilation Shaft

Ventilation Shaft Description:

This is likely the entrance or ventilation shaft to a small circular Kiva, which has not been excavated. It adjoins Rooms 6-9, which are the remaining foundations of a small building complex to the West of Kiva A (Fire Temple courtyard), with Open Area 2 in between.


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References:

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  1. Mesa Verde National Park. National Park Service. 23 January 2006 <http://www.nps.gov/meve/>.
  2. Abarr, J. "Mesa Verde Slowly Revealing Secrets of Anasazi Culture." 25 July 2004. ABQJournal.com. 23 January 2006 <http://abqjournal.com/venue/travel/202382travel07-25-04.htm>.
  3. Cassidy, Francis. Fire Temple, Mesa Verde National Park, from The Great Kivas of Chaco Canyon (ed. Vivian and Reiter). Monographs of The School of American Research and The Museum of New Mexico, number 22, 1960.
  4. Fewkes, J.W. Antiquities of the Mesa Verde National Park, Spruce Tree House. Washington: G.P.O., 1908.
  5. Fewkes, J.W. with introduction by Larry Nordby. Mesa Verde Ancient Architecture. Avanyu Publishing Inc., 1999.
  6. ICOMOS. "World Heritage List, No. 27." Advisory Body Evaluation. 5 June 1978. UNESCO World Heritage Center. 23 January 2006 <http://whc.unesco.org/archive/advisory_body_evaluation/027.pdf>.
  7. Kantner, John. Ancient Puebloan Southwest. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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