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Each year the Mesa Verde Institute offers special hikes to areas inside Mesa Verde National Park that are not generally available to the public.   Last year I was able to visit a cliff dwelling called Square Tower House and it was a real highlight of my 2011 summer.  This year I got another treat by going to a place called "Mug House".   The interesting name was coined when one of the early explorers found three puebloan mugs, connected by twine, inside the cliff dwelling.  He named the place Mug House. Our hike began on Sunday morning, June 3, when I met up with my intrepid ranger- guide, Kim Sturm.

After walking a short distance from the parking area, our group of 10 hikers began descending into the canyon.  Here is our first glimpse of Mug House.

As we hiked closer to our destination we passed two smaller alcoves which the early inhabitants had used ... these have largely remained undisturbed and will no doubt be of great interest to some future archeologist.

Here are a few pictures as we entered Mug House ... it was spectacular!

Based on tree ring dating (dendrochronology) of wood found in Mug House scientists have determined that it may have been one of the earliest cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde.  It was first occupied around 1015 A.D. and was continously "remodeled" with new rooms and Kivas (ceremonial chambers) over time.  There were actually two watchtowers built, one on each end of the dwelling ... the exact purpose of which is unknown. 

What is particularly interesting about Mug House is the Kivas themselves.  They each have a unique style which is NOT typical Mesa Verde design.  This implies that various groups occupied this site and built Kivas which were more like their group's Kiva "back home" so to speak.  Here are a few Kivas pics .... see if you can spot the differences.  First typical Mesa Verde ...

 

Now for some different styles ...

 

One of the Kivas had remnants of a design which was plastered on the inner surface.  It resembles the same decoration used on the pottery found nearby ...

Here is an interesting feature .... a "horse collar" door frame .... we assume this was used to support a stone used to "close" the doorway.

There is no doubt that this tour will be a highlight of my summer ..... just a very cool place to visit.   It is just incredible to me that we are able to visit these places that are nearly 1000 years old.  I'm sure the original builders had no idea their work would remain for such a long time.   Not sure where my next adventure will take me .... but stay tuned because it will be interesting!   Ranger Rich

 

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