The Sun Temple is a mysterious structure in Mesa Verde that will puzzle those who tend think that most ancient buildings only served a utilitarian purpose. In the western states, the ancient pueblos integrate many elements into the design that reflect upon a harmonious lifestyle and utilitarian designs are just one component. This is especially true concerning the great house pueblos that have hundreds of rooms. Great house pueblos often incorporate agricultural, domicile, astronomical and ceremonial elements into the design framework. There are also many small pueblos in the west that are devoted solely to a specific purpose, which may or may not be utilitarian in nature. In Mesa Verde, the Sun Temple is a prime example of an ancient structure that was designed solely for ceremonial practices.
Modern archaeologists had a difficult time figuring out what the Sun Temple was all about at first, then the local Pueblo People shed some light on the matter. The Pueblo Culture has been around for a very long time and many still prefer living in traditional pueblo structures in modern times. This goes to show that when information is needed, it pays to just ask a native, because they do have the answers and the oldest tribes in the region know the purposes of the ancient structural designs very well! The Pueblo People also state that the ancient pueblos are the spiritual home of their ancestors, so it is best to tread lightly with respect when visiting these sacred places.
The Sun Temple once was a Mesa Verde Culture ceremonial center. The location is on a small branching point of a high mesa that juts into a deep canyon, so the Sun Temple can be compared to an eagles nest. Upon excavation, no living quarters or food preparation room evidence was found, even though the Sun Temple is a small "D" shaped structure, which is a classic design associated with great house pueblos.
Two large round kiva rooms surrounded by tall walls are featured in this big temple that sits high on top of a branching narrow mesa arm. The walls of this temple were once over 10 feet high, so this once was a massive building. Just by looking at the fine masonry block work, it is easy to see that plenty of extra time was devoted to making this temple look appealing to the eye, which indicates a special purpose. Pondering over the significance of this ancient ceremonial structure is certainly is easy to do.
A paved foot trail winds its way through all of the ancient Sun Point sites and next to the Sun Temple is one of the many Cliff House overlooks. Looking at the gigantic Cliff House, which is a great house cliff dwelling across the canyon does help to paint a picture of just how complex the ancient Mesa Verde Culture really was. From Sun Point, binoculars or a telephoto camera will be needed to get a good view of Cliff House, so be sure to bring one along when walking on the Sun Point Trail!
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