Far View Site Map
WELCOME TO THE FAR VIEW COMPLEX OF ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES.
Archeologists speculate that Far View was one of the most densely populated areas in Mesa Verde. As many as fifty villages exist within a one half-mile square area. Most of the sites excavated date from between A.D. 900 and A.D. 1300 -- Developmental Pueblo to Classic Pueblo times. However, archeologists working in this area have found evidence of even earlier occupations, suggesting the Ancestral Puebloans found the Far View area a good place to live during most of their occupation of the Mesa Verde.
The concentration of these villages on the upper portion of Chapin Mesa may have been due to the heavier annual precipitation received. The Far View area receives more annual moisture than other places in the park. Recent scientific study, however, shows that the growing season in this area is less than the growing season near park headquarters by as much as two weeks each year. The Far View area would have been even more marginal for farming than somewhat lower elevations of the mesa tops.
The feature known as Mummy Lake may have been a reservoir or a ceremonial site. In either case it reflects the community effort and cooperation necessary between the villages of this complex to build such a project.
Jesse Walter Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington began excavation and stabilization in the Far View group in 1916 with Far View House. He excavated Far View Tower in 1921 and Megalithic House and Pipe Shrine House in 1922. The field school of the University of Colorado excavated Coyote Village during the 1968 and 1969 field seasons and Mummy Lake during the 1969 season.
Although we no longer use the same techniques in wall stabilization as Dr. Fewkes employed, stabilization is an essential part of the preservation of ancient archeological sites. Wall maintenance and repair of damage caused by rain, snow, and visitors continues to be a major annual job of specialists in the National Park Service. It is this stabilization that makes it possible for visitors to enter the dwellings of the Far View complex and even to climb on walls in some cases. We ask that you exercise caution while visiting these dwellings to avoid injury to yourself or the site. Please use ladders and steps, and avoid jumping from wall to wall or walking on the edges of walls. Also, please avoid climbing in kivas to prevent their deterioration.
Far View House is a large, rectangular pueblo consisting of about 40 ground floor rooms, an undetermined number of upper story rooms, and five kivas, or ceremonial chambers. Four of these kivas are within the building walls, while one is located outside the walls. Modern archeological dating techniques were unknown when this dwelling was excavated in 1916. However, later examination of the artifacts and the masonry style suggests that Far View House was built and occupied between A.D. 1100 and 1300 -- during the Classic Pueblo Period of Mesa Verde Ancestral Puebloan occupation. One can see evidence that Far View House was at least two stories high in many places.
Begin your tour of this excavated village at stop #1, on the south (downhill) side of Far View House.
1 A striking feature of Far View House is the regularity and size of its rooms. Notice the definite pattern of their construction and how evenly they are spaced. By looking through the entryways and entering these rooms, you can get an idea of room size in a Classic Pueblo village. Would such rooms be adequate for us in our homes today? Rooms in Far View House are larger and have larger entryways than rooms in the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde. Did the villagers give up these more spacious rooms in favor of the cliff dwellings? If so, why? Perhaps the Far View area and the cliff dwellings were occupied concurrently.
As you walk along the south wall to stop #2 (at the base of the ladder), notice the higher walls in the center of the site north of the large kiva. These are the remains of second story walls.
2 Can you see how the corner of the wall to the right of the ladder is sagging compared to the rest of the wall? The builders reinforced this corner to increase stability. Far View House was constructed where earlier people had discarded trash. The walls soon settled into the soft trash mound, making repair work such as you see here necessary. From this point climb the short ladder to stop #3.
3 This is an especially large kiva. Many kivas in the Far View complex contain features more similar to kivas found in Chaco Canyon. Chaco Canyon National Historic Park, located in northwestern New Mexico, represents another segment of the Ancient Puebloan culture. The people of Chaco Canyon began to desert their villages by the late A.D. 1100's. The villagers of Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde engaged in trade. Evidence of Chaco Canyon style architecture in Mesa Verde and Mesa Verde style architecture in Chaco Canyon leads archeologists to speculate that ideas as well as material goods were traded by these two groups.
This larger kiva A appears to be the oldest of the four kivas within the walls of Far View House. It most resembles Chacoan kivas in size. The low pilasters (pillars) for roof supports, the very tall walls, and the two vaults on the floor are all "borrowed" features from Chaco Canyon kivas.
As you walk through Far View House, notice the bright red wall surfaces on kiva C. Apparently a substantial fire with intense heat engulfed this kiva at some time. Kiva C also has a sub-floor ventilator system which is another characteristic of Chacoan kivas. The villagers remodeled kiva B, fitting it into a rectangular space. The round kiva wall intersects older walls which had once been room walls. This kiva had about 20 coats of plaster. Modern Pueblos usually replaster their kivas each spring, suggesting many years of use. Take a look at how kiva E was built in a raised court on the south side of the village. This would have provided a warm southern exposure for daily activities. Feel free to wander about the rest of the village before you proceed to the next stop. Stop #4, Pipe Shrine House, is located 100 feet (30 meters) to the south.
4 While excavating Far View House in 1916, Dr. Fewkes became interested in a large mound to the south. In the spring of 1922 he began to excavate this site. This one-to-two story village contained about 20 ground floor rooms. Although no evidence of a second story exists, walls several stones wide provide an ample foundation for one. Walls on the north side of the dwelling are examples of single course masonry (one stone wide). The people constructed their village in an L-shape, typical of a Mid-to-Late Developmental Pueblo dwelling (A.D. 1000 to 1100). The rest of the dwelling contains double course masonry (walls two or more stones wide), a common characteristic of Classic Pueblo dwellings.
Dr. Fewkes named this site Pipe Shrine House because in a pit in the kiva he found a dozen decorated clay pipes. Archeologists believe the people smoked these pipes ceremonially rather than for pleasure, as is practiced by native peoples today.
Because Pipe Shrine House contains both single and double course masonry, archeologists believe it was occupied from A.D. 900 - 1300. As the population of the village increased, the people may have remodeled and added on extra rooms using the newer double coursed masonry technique. Another idea is that the original villagers left the pueblo. Later a second group moved in and used different construction techniques.
The Pipe Shrine House kiva is larger than most at Far View. The low bench, high walls, and different ventilation system are characteristics of Chacoan kivas. The kiva was surrounded by rooms, and its flat roof served as a central courtyard inside the village. The only entrance to this courtyard and to the rooms of Pipe Shrine House is an entryway in the south wall of the pueblo. Excavators found burned timbers and roof debris, suggesting the roof burned and the kiva was never reused. Archeologists believe that a tower stood beside the kiva. Today the remains of this tower, larger than many in Mesa Verde, looks like a circular room within the village.
South of the pueblo the villagers constructed a retaining wall to level the area before building. In the middle of the retaining wall is a recess with steps leading to the lower level. Fewkes said this recess contained another shrine in which he found a segment of a stone mountain lion. Other stone fetishes, possibly representing a bird and a bighorn sheep, were found in Pipe Shrine House.
The unique kiva, large tower, and interesting artifacts all led Dr. Fewkes to believe that Pipe Shrine House served as a ceremonial building rather than a typical dwelling.
Dr. Fewkes found twelve undisturbed human burials in Pipe Shrine House. The bodies lay buried in fully extended positions with pottery and other grave goods placed beside them. The fully extended position is unusual for Mesa Verde burials. In most Mesa Verde burials, the body is in a flexed or fetal position. If Pipe Shrine House was not a dwelling, what purpose did it serve?
From here please walk back to the parking lot and follow the directional sign north to the next stop.
This building is situated north of Far View House, about midway between it and Mummy Lake, and when work began on it no walls were visible; the site was covered with sage bushes, and fallen stone strewn over the surface had raised a mound a few feet high, which is now a fine circular tower surrounded by low walled basal rooms. Three kivas were revealed on the south side where formerly no evidence of their existence appeared.
The remains of the Far View Tower suggest that this village was also occupied during two separate periods. The sixteen rooms north of the tower have the earlier single course masonry. Two of the three kivas found were built at the same time as these rooms. The tower however, has double course masonry.
There were originally three kivas, a round tower, and sixteen rooms in this site. One of the original kivas was abandoned and filled with trash by the villagers. Later, the people built the third kiva and the tower over part of the earlier, trash-filled kiva. This is why we see only two kivas at this site today.
From the size of the mound and the amount of rubble around it, Dr. Fewkes believed the tower once stood as high as the surrounding trees.
Archeologists have found the remains of 57 towers in Mesa Verde. There are several theories about the construction of these towers. Towers are circular and some are connected to kivas. Many archeologists believe towers were ceremonial in use. Others believe they may have served as signal towers or as watchtowers. Perhaps the towers served as a place to observe the sun's position and keep track of planting and harvesting seasons or ceremonial cycles.
From this stop, proceed north along the trail to stop #6, Mummy Lake.
6 This feature, excavated by the University of Colorado in 1969, may have been a man-made reservoir which provided water for the nearby villages. Archeologists have found evidence of collection ditches which would have filled the reservoir with the annual spring snow melt. Another theory suggests this feature was an unroofed great kiva or ceremonial dance area. Based on research conducted by Colorado State University, probably even snow melt would not have filled this structure with water.
Mummy Lake is a circular depression 90 feet (27 meters) in diameter and 12 feet (3.6 meters) deep when in use, surrounded by a circular wall with artificial banks on the south and east sides. The masonry walls suggest two construction periods -- one between A.D. 900 and 1100 and another between A.D. 1100 and 1300. Archeologists studied pottery shards (pieces) to determine the time during which this feature may have been used. These shards suggest the Ancient Puebloans used this feature right up until the abandonment of Mesa Verde.
The reservoir theory indicates this feature was filled through the gap on the west end, near the present road. Although there is no evidence of an outlet, some researchers believe a ditch ran from this area to the canyon immediately above Spruce Tree House. They believe that such a ditch could have been used to transport irrigation water along the five miles (eight kilometers) between the Far View complex and Spruce Tree House.
Other archeologists believe the ditch was really an historic trail between the two areas. These archeologists think the opening in the west wall was an entrance into the feature, as were the steps in the south wall.
As you leave this area, you may continue north to stop #7, Megalithic House.
7 In 1922 Dr. Fewkes excavated Megalithic House, named for the large stones in one or two rooms near the kiva. Although archeologists found evidence of eight or nine rooms and a kiva, only one or two rooms had large stones set on edge to form the base of a wall. The other rooms had single course masonry walls. Megalithic House may be all that remains of a larger village.
Although uncommon in the region, Dr. Fewkes reported villages similar to Megalithic House have been found on the bluff overlooking the junction of Yellow Jacket and McElmo Canyons west of Cortez and in other areas in the San Juan Valley. Recent archeological excavations have reported similar villages, all dating to approximately the same period of occupation.
The kiva at Megalithic House is an excellent example of a Late Developmental Pueblo kiva. Note the "keyhole" shape and the excellent stone work of the walls of the kiva. The builders cut through the bedrock to make the floor of this kiva level. Would the villagers have gone to so much work to level the floor of a nonceremonial room?
From this point, please proceed back along the trail to the parking lot area and then to Coyote Village.
8 Coyote Village is the most recently excavated village open for public display in Mesa Verde National Park. The University of Colorado excavated this village during the 1968 and 1969 seasons.
Coyote Village consists of some 30 ground floor rooms, five kivas, and a circular tower. 40 to 50 people probably occupied the village you see here in the A.D. 1000's. Much of the stone work is single course masonry.
During excavation, archeologists uncovered evidence of an earlier occupation of this site during the A.D. 800's or 900's. Some walls are also double course masonry suggesting some construction or remodeling during the Classic Pueblo Period. Double course walls may have supported second story rooms, but there is no evidence of this in Coyote Village.
University of Colorado excavators found evidence of a pithouse beneath the Coyote Village tower. This pithouse is an indication of an earlier occupation. Exact dating of this feature was not possible because the pithouse could not be excavated without destroying the tower of Coyote Village.
Kivas 1, 4, and 5 in the center and west end of the building all have tunnels connecting them with other features and with each other. The floor of kiva 2, on the extreme east of the ruin, was built at ground level. The people never used, or even completed, this kiva. Kiva 3 was abandoned and filled with trash while the village was occupied. Following excavation, archeologists noted water on the floors of the kivas in the spring of the year.
Short walls butt against the double coursed wall along the east and south sides of the village. There are also openings to the outside in this wall. There is no evidence that these short walls were ever completed rooms. With kiva 3 filled and kiva 1 roofed over, maybe the east and south wall enclosed a large, open courtyard. Could these divider walls have separated stalls along the east and south of the open courtyard? If so, what purpose would such stalls have served for the people of this village?
FROM YOUR VISIT TO MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK, WE HOPE YOU WILL JOIN WITH US
IN SPECULATING ABOUT THE EVERYDAY LIFE OF THE ANCIENT PUEBLOANS.
HOW WERE THEIR LIVES LIKE OURS? HOW WERE THEY DIFFERENT FROM OURS?
EACH YEAR, NEW ARCHEOLOGICAL RESEARCH PROVIDES US WITH MORE ANSWERS AND NEW QUESTIONS.
WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PEOPLE OF MESA VERDE.
THE ORAL HISTORIES OF THE NATIVE AMERICAN PEOPLE IN THE FOUR CORNERS AREA ARE NOT FULLY TAPPED.
TODAYS NATIVE AMERICANS HAVE MANY VERSIONS OF WHO THESE PEOPLE WERE.
THEIR VERSIONS MAY HELP TO EXPLAIN MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS.
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