I'm Steve Ember.
I'm Barbara Klein with Explorations in VOA Special English. Today we tell about
a large National Park established to protect the culture of ancient Native
Americans. It is called Mesa Verde.
was cold that day in eighteen eighty-eight in southwestern Colorado. Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law were
trying to find some missing cattle. They
were up on Mesa Verde. Spanish explorers
had named the area. The high, flat
mountaintop is covered with many green juniper and pinon pine trees. It looks like a huge green table, which is
"mesa verde" in Spanish.
two men came to the edge of a deep canyon.
Through the falling snow, they saw what looked like a small city across
the canyon. It was suspended in the
middle of the rock wall. There were many
connected rooms built into a natural opening in the rock.
They named the ruins Cliff Palace. In the next few days, they found two more
large ruins. They named one Spruce Tree
House. They named the other Square Tower
number of other people had seen and taken pictures of some of the cliff
dwellings earlier. But the Wetherill
family was the first group to study them.
Soon after his discovery, Richard Wetherill returned to Mesa Verde, to
the ruins that had remained silent and untouched for centuries.
Wetherill collected many objects. It was
an easy task. It looked as if the people
who had lived there had just walked away, leaving everything they owned. Cooking pots by the fireplaces. Food bowls on the floors. Shoes in the corners. Sticks for digging by the doors.
The ruins in Colorado had been home to the ancestors of
the present day members of the Pueblo tribes.
They were named Anasazi, or ancient ones, by the Navajo Indians. They moved to Mesa Verde about one thousand
five hundred years ago and left seven hundred years ago. They built the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde
toward the end of the eight hundred years they lived there.
Richard Wetherill showed his collection of objects in
nearby towns. People were not
interested. Just some more old Indian
things, they said. Finally, he sold his
collection to the Colorado Historical Society.
But the Wetherill family continued exploring Mesa Verde. Their finds became known in the eastern
United States and in Europe. Hundreds of
people went to Mesa Verde to see for themselves.
of the earliest visitors was a young man from Sweden, Gustaf Nordenskiold. Mister Nordenskiold spent months exploring
the area. He traveled on foot and on
horseback. He took pictures that were
published in a book, "The Cliff Dwellers of the Mesa Verde."
Nordenskiold collected hundreds of objects he found in the ruins. He loaded them on teams of mules and sent
them to the nearby town of Durango, Colorado.
Local officials tried to prevent him from removing so many objects. But there were no laws to stop him. Mister Nordenskiold shipped the objects to
Sweden. Later, they were given to the
national museum in Helsinki, Finland, where they remain today.
Many people were shocked by the continuing removal of
objects from the ruins at Mesa Verde.
One was a woman named Virginia McClurg.
She had visited the area and had explored a few small ruins. From eighteen eighty-seven to eighteen
ninety-six, she campaigned throughout the country to get laws to save the cliff
dwellings. She gave speeches describing
the destruction of the dwellings by people seeking treasures. She worked for years with members of the
United States Congress to get such laws passed.
on June twenty-ninth, nineteen-oh-six, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a
bill creating Mesa Verde National Park.
It was the first National Park designed to protect the works of humans.
Then Congress approved the Federal Antiquities Act of nineteen-oh-six. The act helps protect ancient ruins on
from a distance, Mesa Verde appears as it did centuries ago. It rises more than five hundred forty meters
above the floor of the valley. Visitors
can drive up to the top of Mesa Verde on a winding mountain road. When you reach the top, you are two thousand
four hundred meters above sea level. In
the distance are the flat lands and mountains of the Four Corners area. That is where the western states of Colorado,
New Mexico, Utah and Arizona meet. This area has one of the largest numbers of
archeological sites in the United States.
the national park are more than five thousand ruins from the time of the
Ancestral Puebloan people. Six hundred
are cliff dwellings. Most of the ruins
remain unexplored. Some have been
uncovered and supported to make them safe to visit. These ruins are open to the public during
most of the year. During the winter,
activities are limited. The visitors'
center at the park is open during the summer.
The museum is open all year.
visitors' center and the museum provide information about the history of the
culture of the ancient Pueblo people and about present-day Indians. National Park Service guides lead visitors to
the ruins. They give talks about the
cultural history of the area. And they
talk about the geology and wildlife.
Some of the ruins in the Four Corners area are from the
earliest people who lived there. They
were hunters and gatherers, now known as Basket Makers. The Basket Makers lived in simple caves. Their civilization existed two thousand years
ago. The first evidence that ancient people had moved to Mesa Verde is from
about the year five hundred. Those
people lived in pit houses. Pit houses
were large holes in the ground with roofs of wood and mud.
about the year seven hundred fifty, the early Pueblo people began building
square structures of large connected rooms, or pueblos, above ground. Finally, in about eleven hundred, they
climbed down the canyon walls and began building cliff dwellings. Today,
visitors to Mesa Verde can see some of the remains of all four kinds of
Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde and also in North
America. It has one hundred fifty
rooms. It is difficult to get to
it. Visitors must climb down into the
canyon on a narrow path with many steps.
They must also climb down several ladders. But the trip is well worth the effort. Visitors can examine a huge and beautiful
structure made of stone and clay.
Tree House is the third largest cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National
Park. It has one hundred fourteen
rooms. It also has eight underground
rooms called kivas. The Indian men
gathered in the kivas for special ceremonies.
About one hundred people lived in this cliff dwelling during the
Spruce Tree House is the easiest cliff dwelling to
visit. The path curves down into the
valley and then up to the ruin. Signs along
the path point to trees and plants used by the Ancestral Puebloan people. Also along the path are the juniper and pinon
pine trees that make Mesa Verde green.
five hundred thousand people visit Mesa Verde National Park each year. The park's archeologists have recovered many
objects that the ancient Pueblo people used, including pots, tools and
jewelry. Many of the objects are shown in
the visitors' center. However, human
remains or any object from a grave may not be touched or shown. This is to honor the wishes of the modern
Puebloan people who live in the area today.
Verde National Park occupies twenty-one thousand hectares of land. However, only about ten percent of the area
has been explored.
Mesa Verde is recognized as a special place. The United Nations named it one of the first
World Heritage sites in nineteen seventy-eight.
Special events were held at Mesa Verde during its one hundredth
anniversary in two thousand six. They included tours of areas never before open
to the public.
Pueblo Indians whose ancestors lived in Mesa Verde consider it a sacred
place. And for visitors from around the
world, it remains a place of mystery and beauty.
program was written by Marilyn Christiano and Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Mario Ritter. I'm Barbara Klein.
And I'm Steve
Ember. Join us again next week for
Explorations in VOA Special English.