Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Palace

Open from 8:00 A.M. to sunset, the Cliff Palace Loop drive takes you past mesa top sites and overlooks to cliff dwellings in the canyon below. You may visit one of two cliff dwellings by guided tour, Cliff Palace or Balcony House. These sites can only be reached by a one-hour ranger-guided tour. You must purchase tickets for tours at the Far View Visitor Center before going to the site. Rangers begin the Cliff Palace tour from the overlook at the end of the entrance trail.

Often visitors to the park look at the size of these doorways and wonder about the size of the people who once lived here. An average man was about 5'4" to 5'5" (163cm) tall, while an average woman was 5' to 5'1" (152cm). If you compare them with European people of the same time period, they would have been about the same size. Compared with today, the Ancestral Puebloan's average life span was relatively short, due, in part, to the high infant mortality rate. Most people lived an average of 32-34 years, however some people did live into their 50s and 60s. Approximately 50% of the children died before they reached the age of 5.

Sandstone, mortar and wooden beams were the three primary construction materials. The Ancestral Puebloans shaped each sandstone block using harder stones collected from nearby river beds. The mortar between the blocks is a mixture of local soil, water and ash. Fitted in the mortar are tiny pieces of stone called chinking. Chinking stones fill in the gaps within the mortar and added structural stability to the walls. Over the surface of many walls, the people placed a thin coating of paint, called plaster, the first things to erode with time.

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