On our last day in Mesa Verde, we drove 12 miles of hairpin turns with a bird's eye view of the Montezuma valley to reach Long House on Wetherill Mesa.
It was the last day of the season. The house is open to visitors only between Memorial day and Labor day.
We took the ranger led tour (tickets can only be bought at the Far View visitor center). Unlike Cliff Palace and Balcony House, this site allows you to walk the entire ruin under the keen eyes of the experienced ranger. We climbed three relatively easy ladders that got us those critical feet closer to the dwellings and what a difference it makes!
Getting a chance to peek into some of the back rooms , inhaling the moist and dusty air - presumably trapped for years - is a privilege.
Some of the rooms are extremely tiny with miniscule doors. Even the diminutive Anasazi - "just over 5 feet" in size - probably had to stoop to get in and sleep in near fetal position.
A room that I peeped into had blackened roof. It is tough to imagine fires being lit in such confined spaces. Yet, the small door most definitely prevented rapid heat loss.
The sight on the right is a personal favorite.
One frame seems to have captured multiple elements of the Anasazi architecture
(1) the multi-storey room in the middle that hugs the natural rock wall and goes as vertical as it can. Space was premium. Every inch of shelter and storage that could be built out, was.
(2) the jutting Pinyon Juniper logs. Ancient truss used for supporting the roof
(3) dimpled mortar with chinking
(4) signs of ancient adobe plaster
(5) storage rooms built high up in the nooks (right top corner).
(6) use of dressed sandstone
I wish one of these door were T-shaped.
As we walked through the ruins, we saw well worn grooves. They were used by Anasazi to sharpen their tools of trade - arrows, knives, axes. These grooves seem to be everywhere as if the Anasazi sharpened the tools while they exchanged daily gossip.
Ancient tool sharpening groves amaze little Rhea
Petroglyph of a human hand. We also saw one which has six fingers.
Water was a precious commodity in Mesa Verde. Alcoves that did not have a live spring needed people to carry baskets full of water down precarious hand and toe holds.
Long house has a stream at the back of the house, with enough throughput to sustain a population of 150-175 that lived here between CE 1200 to 1300 CE. The sandstone helped filter the 18 inches of annual rain at Mesa Verde into these little streams of life.
Here we saw little ducts and basins dug into the bedrock to channel the water. Ladles have been found on similar sites that were used to get water out for distribution.
The roof of this dwelling has the most blackening I saw in Mesa Verde. The ancient soot on the beautifully orange and ochre sandstone provides a wonderful background to the red stones of the building.
Rhea stood in from of a tiny door. Had it not been for the small steps inside the room, I would have mistaken it for a window. Rhea is standing right against the wall, so you can use her to scale. (Also, Click on the image to see a picture of the wall without Rhea)
"No 15" inscription on the wall, handiwork of Gustaf Nordenskiold, the Swedish scientist who has done some of the earliest (1891) scientific work in Mesa Verde. He has been responsible for naming most of the sites as well as assigning numbers to the ruins.
This is a unique structure in Mesa Verde. The center platform is called Dance Plaza. It has many characteristics of a kiva except that it never had a roof. This is probably a ceremonial meeting place (and was the venue for the Mesa Verde centennial ceremony). The floor of the plaza emanates melodious notes when stomped upon and is probably the reason behind the name. Dance Plaza
Two interesting features of Long House.
High up on the inward sloping roof of the alcove is this petroglyph of a human hand. The icon, is a pointer to the location of a water in the dwelling, which probably explains its prominent and central location 60 feet from ground.
Here we saw a stick stuck in a crack of the alcove. Usually known as prayer sticks, they have a more scientific reason for them being there - discovered accidentally by a ranger a few years ago. As he stood under the alcove, one of these sticks dropped at his feet. Three days later, a big chunk of the sandstone came loose and crashed to the ground.
The sticks are early warning systems for stone wear and tear.