Seasons of Time: The Changing Landscapes of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado

Southern Colorado and northern New Mexico have a rich and diverse history that stretches back centuries. Before European contact, this region was inhabited by various indigenous cultures, including the Puebloan peoples such as the Taos and Pueblo tribes in northern New Mexico and the Ute, Apache, and Comanche tribes in southern Colorado. These Native American groups had developed intricate societies with complex agricultural practices, trade networks, and distinct spiritual beliefs.

Mesa Verde National Park, located in southwestern Colorado, is an iconic archaeological site renowned for its well-preserved cliff dwellings and ancestral Puebloan heritage. Inhabited for over 700 years, Mesa Verde’s history traces back to around 550 AD when the ancestral Puebloans began building elaborate stone structures on the mesa tops. However, it was during the 12th and 13th centuries that they constructed the remarkable cliff dwellings that Mesa Verde is most famous for. These cliff dwellings were built into the natural alcoves of sandstone cliffs and provided shelter, defense, and a sense of community for the inhabitants. By the late 13th century, for reasons not entirely clear, the ancestral Puebloans began to migrate southward, abandoning Mesa Verde.

Today, Mesa Verde National Park stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, preserving the history and culture of the ancestral Puebloans and offering visitors a glimpse into their remarkable cliff-dwelling civilization.