Cliff dwelling

In archeology, cliff dwellings are dwellings formed by using niches or caves in high cliffs, with more or less excavation or with additions in the way of masonry.

Two special sorts of cliff dwelling are distinguished by archaeologists: the cliff-house, which is actually built on levels in the cliff, and the cavate, which is dug out, by using natural recesses or openings.

Rock-cut architecture generally refers to rather grander temples, but also tombs, cut into living rock, although for example the Ajanta Caves in India, of the 2nd century BCE to 5th century CE, probably housed several hundred Buddhist monks and are cut into a cliff, as are the Mogao Caves in China.

Some of the most famous cliff dwellings are those in North America, particularly among the canyons of the southwest, in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Chihuahua in Mexico, some of which are still used by Native Americans. There has been considerable discussion as to their antiquity, but modern research finds no definite justification for assigning them to a distinct primitive race, or farther back than the ancestors of the modern Pueblo people. The area in which they occur coincides with that in which other traces of the Pueblo tribes have been found. The niches that were used are often of considerable size, occurring in cliffs up to a thousand feet in height, and approached by rock steps or log ladders.

Hohokam cliff dwelling (Montezuma Castle), Arizona
Sinagua cliff dwelling (Montezuma Castle), Arizona
Tsankawi, cavattes & steps
Cavates and pathways in soft tuff at Tsankawi, New Mexico

See also


  • Noble, David Grant. "Ancient Ruins of the Southwest. Northland Publishing, Flagstaff, Arizona 1995. ISBN 0-87358-530-5
  • Oppelt, Norman T. "Guide to Prehistoric Ruins of the Southwest". Pruett Publishing, Boulder, Colorado, 1989. ISBN 0-87108-783-9.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cliff-dwellings" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 507.

External links

Media related to Cliff dwellings at Wikimedia Commons

Bicaz Gorge

The Bicaz Gorge (Romanian: Cheile Bicazului, Hungarian: Békás-szoros) is a gorge in Romania, located in the north-east part of the country, in Neamţ and Harghita counties; it is part of the Cheile Bicazului-Hășmaș National Park.

The gorge was excised by the waters of Bicaz River and it serves as a passageway between the Romanian provinces of Moldova and Transylvania.

It is a noted location to see the wallcreeper, an uncommon cliff-dwelling bird.

The road along the 8 kilometres of ravines, often in serpentines with rock on one side and a sheer drop on the other, is one of the most spectacular drives in the country. Also within the gorge is Lacul Roşu (the Red Lake), with its traditional cabins, hotels, and its famous lake (situated at 980m altitude) caused by a landslide in the 19th century.

Cheile Bicazului is one of the main rock climbing sites in Romania.

Cattleya crispata

Cattleya crispata, commonly known by the synonym Laelia flava, is a species of orchid endemic to Minas Gerais, Brazil. For registration purposes, the Royal Horticultural Society calls this species Cattleya crispata.

Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. The structure built by the Ancestral Puebloans is located in Mesa Verde National Park in their former homeland region. The cliff dwelling and park are in the southwestern corner of Colorado, in the Southwestern United States.

Cumberland point

A Cumberland point is a lithic projectile point, attached to a spear and used as a hunting tool. These sturdy points were intended for use as thrusting weapons and employed by various mid-Paleo-Indians (c. 11,000 BP) in the Southeastern US in the killing of large game mammals.

Gallo Cliff Dwelling

Gallo Cliff Dwelling is a pair of Ancestral Puebloan room blocks that lie under a cliff in Gallo Canyon, New Mexico. Located adjacent to the National Park Service campground, the site includes a central room that features a multi-storied wall and a five-room structure with kiva that was probably occupied during the early 12th century by Mesa Veredans, who built in a distinctive McElmo masonry style. The inhabitants of these dwellings dates from 1150 to 1200 AD, or the late Chacoan Period. National Park Service excavations there during the 1960s uncovered a quantity of perishable items, including sandals and baskets, from the rooms.The Gallo Cliff Dwellings lie on the outskirts of a group of houses, Chacoan Great Houses, lived in by farmers. These people worked on nearby fields to provide food for their families. There is a campground nearby called Gallo Campground and is a great place for camping if you are interested in touring the site. Petroglyphs are carved into many of the faces of the cliffs. Many are too faint to determine what the image was intended to be, but the most common, discernable image are bear paws. These are considered a clan symbol, marking the territory of its members.

Next to the cliffs is a valley, and then the Fajada Butte. On one side of this hill is a huge ramp that connects to a place where a calendar was made. It is called the Sun Dagger and keeps track of the way the sun and moon moves. It is believed that this calendar helped the Chacoans follow yearly solstices.

These dwellings are very helpful in giving a better look into the lives of the Chacoan people and how they had to adapt to the changing environment around them. As avid farmers who depended on their fields for food, they needed to move when the soil could no longer provide the nutrients for their crops. Nowadays, there are techniques of rotating crops, but back then there was no such strategy. These people would travel, find new places to plant their crops, and build new houses.

Grinding slab

In archaeology, a grinding slab is a ground stone artifact generally used to grind plant materials into usable size, though some slabs were used to shape other ground stone artifacts. Some grinding stones are portable; others are not and, in fact, may be part of a stone outcropping.

Grinding slabs used for plant processing typically acted as a coarse surface against which plant materials were ground using a portable hand stone, or mano ("hand" in Spanish). Variant grinding slabs are referred to as metates or querns, and have a ground-out bowl. Like all ground stone artifacts, grinding slabs are made of large-grained materials such as granite, basalt, or similar tool stones.

Hatinh langur

The Hatinh langur (Trachypithecus hatinhensis) is a highly threatened Old World monkey found in limestone forests in Vietnam, primarily in the Quảng Bình Province. A recent survey discovered a small population living in the Quảng Trị Province. Contrary to its name, it is not known from the Hà Tĩnh Province. The local Van Kieu minority refer to this lutung as the 'Con Cung', which roughly translates as "black, cliff-dwelling monkey with a long tail". It resembles the closely related François' langur (T. francoisi), but its white cheek-stripes typically extend behind the ears onto the nape (there are significant individual variations, however), and the overall black colour is non-glossy and has a brownish tinge.This diurnal, largely arboreal langur is social and typically seen in groups of 2-15, but occasionally groups may number as many as 30 individuals. It has often been considered a subspecies of the François' langur, but was elevated to a full species by Bradon-Jones in 1995, and this was followed by Groves, 2005. Both, however, listed it as a subspecies in 2004, and genetic work suggest it should be considered a subspecies of the Laotian langur (T. laotum). Morphological and genetic data also suggests the Indochinese black langur (T. ebenus) is a morph of the Hatinh langur.

Hemicrambe townsendii

Hemicrambe townsendii is a rare cliff-dwelling shrub in the Brassicaceae family. Less than one metre tall, it can easily be identified by its white flowers and small hanging fruit.

It has a very limited range, only being found in Yemen. It is currently unknown whether the overall population is growing or shrinking.


The Honanki Heritage Site is a cliff dwelling and rock art site located in the Coconino National Forest, about 15 miles (24 km) west of Sedona, Arizona. The Sinagua people of the Ancestral Puebloans, and ancestors of the Hopi people, lived here from about 1100 to 1300 AD. The Palatki Heritage Site is nearby, also in the Coconino National Forest.

List of Ancestral Puebloan dwellings in Utah

This is a list of Ancestral Puebloan dwellings in Utah, United States.

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park is an American national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Montezuma County, Colorado. The park protects some of the best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites in the United States.

Established by Congress and President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the park occupies 52,485 acres (21,240 ha) near the Four Corners region of the American Southwest. With more than 5,000 sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, it is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States. Mesa Verde (Spanish for "green table") is best known for structures such as Cliff Palace, thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America.

Starting c. 7500 BCE Mesa Verde was seasonally inhabited by a group of nomadic Paleo-Indians known as the Foothills Mountain Complex. The variety of projectile points found in the region indicates they were influenced by surrounding areas, including the Great Basin, the San Juan Basin, and the Rio Grande Valley. Later, Archaic people established semi-permanent rockshelters in and around the mesa. By 1000 BCE, the Basketmaker culture emerged from the local Archaic population, and by 750 CE the Ancestral Puebloans had developed from the Basketmaker culture.

The Mesa Verdeans survived using a combination of hunting, gathering, and subsistence farming of crops such as corn, beans, and squash. They built the mesa's first pueblos sometime after 650, and by the end of the 12th century, they began to construct the massive cliff dwellings for which the park is best known. By 1285, following a period of social and environmental instability driven by a series of severe and prolonged droughts, they abandoned the area and moved south to locations in Arizona and New Mexico, including Rio Chama, Pajarito Plateau, and Santa Fe.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle National Monument protects a set of well-preserved dwellings located in Camp Verde, Arizona which were built and used by the Sinagua people, a pre-Columbian culture closely related to the Hohokam and other indigenous peoples of the southwestern United States, between approximately 1100 and 1425 AD. The main structure comprises five stories and about 45 to 60 rooms and was built over the course of three centuries.Neither part of the monument's name is correct. When European-Americans first observed the ruins in the 1860s, by then long-abandoned, they named them for the famous Aztec emperor Montezuma in the mistaken belief that he had been connected to their construction (see also Montezuma mythology). Having no connections to the Aztecs, the Montezuma Castle was given that name due to the fact that the public had this image of the Aztecs creating any archaeological site. In fact, the dwelling was abandoned more than 40 years before Montezuma was born, and was not a "castle" in the traditional sense, but instead functioned more like a "prehistoric high rise apartment complex". Several Hopi clans and Yavapai communities trace their ancestries to early immigrants from the Montezuma Castle/Beaver Creek area. Archaeological evidence proves that the Hohokam and Hakataya settled around or in the Verde Valley. Clan members periodically return to these ancestral homes for religious ceremonies.

Moon House

Moon House (sometimes written as Moonhouse) is a Pueblo III-period cliff dwelling located in southeastern Utah on Cedar Mesa. It was created by the Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloan peoples between 1150 and 1300.

New Mexico State Road 15

State Road 15 (NM 15) is a state highway in the US state of New Mexico. Its total length is approximately 44.3 miles (71.3 km). NM 15's southern terminus is in the village of Silver City at U.S. Route 180 (US 180), and the northern terminus is a dead end by Cliff Dweller Canyon which is near Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument.

Pueblo III Period

The Pueblo III Period (AD 1150 to AD 1350) was the third period, also called the "Great Pueblo period" when Ancestral Puebloans lived in large cliff-dwelling, multi-storied pueblo, or cliff-side talus house communities. By the end of the period the ancient people of the Four Corners region migrated south into larger, centralized pueblos in central and southern Arizona and New Mexico.

Pueblo III Period (Pecos Classification) is roughly the same as the "Great Pueblo Period" and "Classic Pueblo Period" (AD 1100 to AD 1300).

Salado culture

Salado culture, or Salado Horizon, was a human culture of the Tonto Basin in southeastern Arizona from approximately 1150 CE through the 15th century.

Distinguishing characteristics of the Salado include distinctive Salado Polychrome pottery, communities within walled adobe compounds, and burial of the dead (rather than cremation). The Salado were farmers, using simple irrigation techniques to water fields of maize, beans, pumpkins, amaranth, and cotton. They also hunted local game and gathered buds, leaves, and roots to supplement their diet. They traded with other cultures, as indicated by archaeological finds of seashells from the Gulf of California and macaw feathers from Mexico.

Tillandsia edithae

Tillandsia edithae is a cliff dwelling caulescent species from Bolivia which has a beautiful red flowered inflorescence when in bud. Tillandsia edithae is one of the few tillandsias to have coral coloured flowers making it a very attractive flower. It produces a lot of adventitious offsets along the base of the stem. These flowers are quite rare.

Valdštejn Castle

Valdštejn Castle (German: Waldstein) is an early Gothic fortress near Turnov, in the Czech Republic. It can be found in the cliff dwelling city of Hruboskalsko, in the Bohemian Paradise (Český ráj).

The city was built on three sandstone cliffs in the second half of the thirteenth century by Counts of the Waldstein family. After 1420 the castle was occupied by the Hussites, then later by the robber barons. In 1621 the abandoned castle was bought back by the Waldsteins, whose most illustrious member was Albrecht von Wallenstein. During the peak of the Baroque period, they built a pilgrimage church, dedicated to John of Nepomuk, in 1722 on the ruins of the castle.

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Walnut Canyon National Monument (Hopi: Wupatupqa) is a United States National Monument located about 10 mi (16 km) southeast of downtown Flagstaff, Arizona, near Interstate 40. The canyon rim elevation is 6,690 ft (2,040 m); the canyon's floor is 350 ft lower. A 0.9 mi (1.4 km) long loop trail descends 185 ft (56 m) into the canyon passing 25 cliff dwelling rooms constructed by the Sinagua, a pre-Columbian cultural group that lived in Walnut Canyon from about 1100 to 1250 CE. Other contemporary habitations of the Sinagua people are preserved in the nearby Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle national monuments.

Cliff dwellings
United States

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