Mesa Verde Is Part of Our National Legacy

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Afghanistan to Zambia

Chronicles of a Footloose Forester

By Dick Pellek

 

Mesa Verde, Colorado

From among the hundreds of pictures of Pueblo Indian culture discovered at Mesa Verde in Colorado that one finds on the Internet, almost all focus on relatively up-close snapshots of dwellings, tools, utensils and artistic relics. Few of the photos focus on the mesa itself. That is akin to taking photos of the trees and not paying attention to the forest. Mesa Verde, as a prominent geomorphological feature in the Colorado landscape, is the distinctive forest of historical innovation made possible by its very nature as a unique landform; an island of geological and ecological richness that beckoned to the tribes of native Americans that we now refer to as Pueblo Indians.

 

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Cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde

In this modern era of sophisticated transportation systems, it is easy to take for granted the prospects of driving up the mesa (technically a cuesta) on which the Pueblo Indians lived from A.D. 900 to A.D. 1300; and to visit some of the 600 cliff dwellings and see some of the other 5000 archeological sites. At an elevation of 7000 feet, however; the development of the system of roadways and trails should not be taken for granted; nor should the decision to preserve our historical legacy by creating Mesa Verde National Park in 1906.

 

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The Mesa Verde cuesta where the Pueblo people resided until 1300 A.D.

Whereas the wonders of a rich cultural history await the visitors who drive the scenic roadway to the top, the specter of the Mesa Verde cuesta begins from a great distance. In the photo above one can see the outlines of roadway in a couple of places; if you look closely. In this case, you really should appreciate the forest before you go further to see the trees.

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