Mesa Verde is a western native heritage site that features ancient pueblo structures that are in such good condition, that they look as if they were recently built. Many of the ancient pueblos and pit houses on top of the mesas in this park were partially buried, which preserved them. Excavations performed during the last century revealed several ancient domiciles that were almost completely intact. The discovery of the earthen pit houses from the earliest days of the Mesa Verde Culture provided many answers to the riddles of the past. The transition period from digging pit houses to building small pueblos and eventually designing great house complexes with large kivas can be witnessed when touring the mesa top heritage sites, especially at Sun Point.
Sun Point is a narrow branching arm of Chapin Mesa that extends into an area where two canyons meet. This area is where most of the great house cliff dwelling pueblos are located, so the structures at Sun Point truly once were a centralized feature. The neighboring Sun Temple structure is fascinating to ponder over because this actually was strictly a ceremonial site.
Because the extreme weather conditions at Mesa Verde can be devastating for a freshly excavated ancient earthen pueblo, tin buildings and awnings cover the Sun Point pueblos and pit houses. On a hot summer day some relief can be found in the shade of these covered pueblo sites, which is good to keep in mind when touring this big National Park! The Sun Point Pueblo is an example of an early Mesa Verde pueblo that incorporates earthen pit house elements, as well as a more intricately constructed central stone block and mortar structure. The remains of dozens of small square rooms can be seen on the grounds outside the tin building, so the Sun Point Pueblo was a fairly large complex way back in the early days of Mesa Verde.
One of the practical features of the Sun Point Pueblo that visitors may not be familiar with is the earthen fireplace oven and chimney. Upon first glance, the big dark hole in the pit house wall looks like little tunnel entrance of some kind, but it actually is where a fire was stoked below ground level. The chimney hole was dug a few feet outside the big round pit dwelling. This style of pit house furnace system is very effective and ancient cultures around the globe have used this same design over eons of time. In fact, many modern bushcraft adventurists prefer this classic pit house furnace design too, because the smoke easily draws outside the domicile.
Hours upon hours can be spent pondering over the ancient past at each pueblo site in Mesa Verde National Park. The Sun Point Pueblo is one of many structures on top of Chapin Mesa that await to be experienced and this is one of the few where some shade can be found on a hot summer day. Viewing the Sun Point Pueblo will provide clues for putting the pieces of the puzzle together and this is what the Mesa Verde experience is really all about!
Leave no trace!
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