Cliff Dwellings, Mancos Canyon, Arizona, USA about 1892


CLIFF DWELLINGS, MANCOS CANYON, ARIZONA — From time immemorial men have chosen their places of residence from a desire to defend themselves from invasion. Actuated by such motives, the prehistoric Lake Dwellers of Switzerland built their huts on piles driven into the bed of Lake Lucerne. The Aztecs chose the site of Mexico for similar reasons. Almost all the great cities of antiquity, from Jerusalem to Toledo, were founded in localities which could be easily defended. This same instinct of self-defense is seen among the Aborigines of America, and particularly in the strange Cliff Dwellings which we find in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. In some instances the cliffs at a height of forty or fifty feet above a river have been worn by flood or tempests into grooves, crevices or shelves, usually from four to six feet wide. On these rude structures have been built. Their walls are sometimes eight or ten inches thick, the stones being laid in mortar. One group of such dwellings is 800 feet above the river. The only way of reaching some of these houses, even when one has climbed to the rocky shelf, is to go through the foremost structures. Those in the rear were therefore impregnable, even if the others should be taken. To reach some apartments in these Cliff Dwellings, a man would have to enter an aperture only twenty-two inches high and thirty wide, and crawl through a tube-like passage twenty feet in length! Some can be reached only by ladders to the second story, the lower story being solid without any opening. The former Cliff Dwellers were probably related to the Pueblo Indians. Some of these structures were still inhabited when the Spaniards invaded this region. Cliff dwellings are known to have existed also in Central America three centuries ago. (from John L. Stoddard, Glimpses of the world; a portfolio of photographs of the marvelous works of God and man – 1892)


Cliff Dwellings in Mancos Canyon by Todd Weaver 2013
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