Bandelier National Monument is the indigenous home of the Pueblo People, who are credited with being the original builders of the west. The Pueblo Culture expanded in this region long ago and their ancient great house pueblos that can be seen in Chaco Canyon truly are a marvel to see. The Chaco great house pueblos incorporated a complex architectural design and often they have more than 150 rooms. These magnificent structures are famous for being the epitome of Pueblo Culture architectural achievements, yet the origins of this technology had rather humble beginnings. Some of the earliest known Puebloan structures can be found in Bandelier, which actually are cliff dwellings carved into volcanic tuff with enough rooms to house a small city.
How the geology in this area came to be has been explained in previous Bandelier articles and to make a long story short, a volcanic eruption deposited a thick layer of tuff on one side of Frijoles Canyon. The tuff hardened like soft cement, then erosion created many small pocket caves over time. Hunter gatherers found the pocket caves to be a nice choice for a shelter and eventually some decided to call this place home. The Pueblo People occupied this area starting about 900 years ago and their famous expansive building phase lasted for several hundred years. Since the pocket cave shelters were so effective, it was a natural choice to carve dwellings into the soft volcanic tuff. Eventually ground level structures were added along the base of the cliffs and the roofing timbers were embedded into the tuff wall as well. The empty round holes in the tuff that can be seen about 8 feet above ground level actually are where the poles were mounted.
Longhouse is the main cliff dwelling pueblo complex in Bandelier and this ancient sacred place truly is a magnificent sight to see. The remains of the long ground level pueblo structure foundation that parallels the cliff is all that remains, but by looking at where the timers were once mounted it is possible to visualize a fairly large structure that stood several stories tall in this place. The many rooms that are carved into the tuff certainly will provide plenty to wonder about and there are other mysterious features to ponder over too. Hundred of ancient petroglyphs and petroglyphs adorn longhouse cliff wall, which are fascinating to interpret. Some of the rock ark is unique to the area and can be seen nowhere else, which confirms that this sacred place truly once was occupied early in the Pueblo Culture timeline.
In only takes about ten minutes to hike to Longhouse, but be sure to pack plenty of water because several hours can be spent interpreting the significance of this ancient cliff dwelling pueblo. Cool refreshing relief from the hot New Mexico sunshine can be found a few dozen yards away under the shade of the trees along Frijoles Creek. Bandelier definitely is an ancient cliff dwelling pueblo complex like no other and a greater understanding of native heritage certainly can be gained in this majestic place!
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