News & Events // Park Stories // Protecting the Gem - Cortez Journal

Protecting the Gem - Cortez Journal

Mesa Verde is slowly eroding—one centimeter at a time.

The sandstone canyons carved out of the huge mesa Southeast of Cortez hold some of the most impressive archaeological discoveries in the world.

But time is taking its toll on them.
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Archaeologists are carefully monitoring Cliff Palace, the park’s largest signature attraction. The main focus is on a kiva, a small sub-surface round room believed to be used for ceremonial purposes. The kiva sits at the base of 150 rooms, some in multi-level towers, all constructed of hand fashioned blocks of sandstone held together with little more than mud, water and ash. The kiva being monitored is one of 23 others similar to it.

Chief of Research and Resources, Scott Travis is trying to learn why it is happening and the reasons may be many.

The most obvious cause is that Cliff Palace is over 800 years old. A cliff dwelling, it sits protected from above by an enormous alcove that is still forming. Wind, water and other forms of erosion, however, are adding to the constant change of the structure, one of the greatest ancient man-made marvels in the world, according to Travis.

In the alcove, a castle of gritty blocks sit to the side as exhibit specialists Tim Hovezak and Gary Ethridge quietly walk through the ruins. Hovezak said parts of the site are indeed showing signs of change. He and his fellow park archaeologist are finishing their annual examination, looking for possible new deterioration.

“We’re paying attention to portions of the site that are moving,” he said. “The kind of movement we’re looking at is incremental, it’s nothing catastrophic.”

They both agreed the structure looks good for now.

Read the FULL ARTICLE on the Cortez Journal website.

Reach Brandon Mathis at brandonm@cortezjournal.com