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Sunset On Ancient Ruins

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“Sunset On Ancient Ruins” is an oil painting of the Cliff Dwellings in Mesa Verde, Colorado. My family spent a day traveling to three of the ruins of the ancient Native American's and learning about their lives and how they lived. It was a trip I had taken as a child and found more joy in the learning as an adult.

For almost 600 years after the Anasazi abandoned Mesa Verde at the end of the 13th century, the cliff dwellings lay silent, remembered mostly in the oral histories of the Pueblo descendants of the Anasazi, who had moved far away. Other Indian tribes skirted around the ancient canyons out of fear of “bad medicine.” Spanish and Mexican explorers passed by Mesa Verde between 1765 and 1848 on the Old Spanish Trail, never knowing what wonders lay just out of sight. In 1859 an American geologist climbed to the top of a mesa to catch the view. The cliff dwellings, invisible in the shady canyons below, remained “undiscovered.” Then, in 1874, William Henry Jackson, exploring for the Hayden Survey, happened into Mancos Canyon and provided white man’s first written and photographic evidence of a cliff dwelling. He named the nine-room ruin Two Story House.

Two years later, in December 1888, Richard and brother-in-law Charlie Mason were looking for strays in the deep canyons. Walking to the rim of one of the canyons they were stunned to look across at an ancient city of nearly 400 rooms. Richard gave it the name it bears today, Cliff Palace. Forgetting the lost cattle, they dropped down into Cliff Canyon and up the other side. Inside the 90-foot-deep, 400-foot-wide cavern they found pottery and tools lying there as if the occupants were just out on an errand and would be right back. That night and the following day they found and named Spruce Tree House and Square Tower House. (Information taken from: http://www.cliffdwellingsmuseum.com/anasazi/digging-deeper-into-the-anasazi/major-anasazi-sites-northern-san-juan-region)