|Driving to Puye Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico|
|Chetro Ketl Kiva, Chaco Culture National Heritage Monument|
|Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado|
The most well-know and photographed ancestral pueblo constructions are the dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. They are the best preserved and easily accessible. Two of the most interesting attraction points are the Cliff Palace which in the afternoon sun is just unreal. You have beautiful views of it from a distance, but you can go close by and walk around the tall walls and perfectly preserved kivas. The other one is Balcony House, which, as the name suggests, is located high in the mountain wall, you get in by climbing a very tall wooden ladder (not recommended if you have fear of heights), and after walking through a maze of rooms, you get out by crawling through a tunnel.
|Puye Cliff Dwellings, near Espanola, New Mexico|
|Taos Pueblo, Taos, New Mexico|
|Chaco Culture, Pueblo Bonito|
Where does Chaco Culture stand among all the ancestral pueblo civilizations? I read once that Chaco Culture National Heritage Monument is the closest that North America has to the Pyramids. The statement was meant to capture that Chaco society was the largest and most complex of all ancestral pueblo civilizations, and the settlement they built was the closest to what one would call a city today. It consists of several multi-tier, complex, multi-use houses, which are the largest and best preserved prehistoric structures in North America. Several pueblo civilizations flourished in the Chaco Culture area from the 9th to the 13th centuries, and they are believed to have reached their peak between 1020 and 1110. The entire area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. "Chaco is remarkable for its monumental public and ceremonial buildings and its distinctive architecture – it has an ancient urban ceremonial centre that is unlike anything constructed before or since.'' (from Chaco Culture, Unesco World Heritage.).
I discovered the ancestral pueblo cultures by accident, a canceled trip forced me to rethink my plans, and instead I went to the Hopi reservation without knowing anything about Hopi, maybe a sign of how much the information we get in school and media is filtered. While Chaco is the most recent place I visited, Walpi village was my first encounter with the ancestral pueblo cultures. It opened for me an entire world, still waiting to be acknowledged.