August 5, 2012
One of the finest examples of late prehistoric cliff dwellings in the Southwest, at Mesa Verde National Park, was identified with structural problems, drawing the concern of park archaeologists.
Specifically, a fault line is running parallel to the back of Cliff Palace and is threatening Kiva F and the southern half of Cliff Palace. Kiva F is a 13th-century circular structure in the southern portion of the alcove. Workers are shoring up the iconic kiva with wooden braces while archaeologists evaluate the damage and make plans to stabilize the site.
The centerpiece of Mesa Verde National Park, Cliff Palace was discovered in the late 1800s.
Park archaeologists noticed a small crack in the masonry and then discovered the north wall was leaning precariously into the structure. It is believed that the localized deterioration of individual structures and features and site-wide problems are working together.
According to the U.S. National Park Service, much of the architecture in the southern portion of Cliff Palace is footed onto small, irregularly shaped roof slabs across a steeply pitched alcove floor. These structures, over time, have slid downslope. Water entering the alcove through cracks on the mesa top above Cliff Palace is a long-standing problem.
“Cliff Place is important to the history of the area, it’s a sacred site for our tribes and it’s important to the economy of the area as well,” said Mesa Verde National Park Superintendent Cliff Spencer. “We are working toward a solution to stabilize Kiva F and Cliff Palace itself.”
Cliff Palace remains open for tours while restoration plans are underway and runoff water is rerouted. Archaeologists have roped off Kiva F to tours and continue to evaluate and monitor the site.