cliff-dwelling

cliff dwelling

Prehistoric, usually multistoried house of the ancestors of present-day Pueblo Indians, built from circa 1000 along the sides or under the overhangs of cliffs. The use of hand-hewn stone building blocks and adobe mortar in these communal dwellings was unexcelled even in later times. Rooms on upper levels could be entered either by doorways from adjoining rooms or by ladders through holes in the ceilings; ground-floor rooms could be entered only through the ceiling. It is thought that the cliff dwellings were built as a defense against invading Navajo and Apache tribes. They were deserted by the inhabitants around the end of the 13th century. Many ruins remain, including notable ones at Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, and Montezuma Castle National Monument.

Learn more about cliff dwelling with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Cliff dwelling is the general archaeological term for the habitations of primitive peoples, formed by utilizing 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;

  1. the cliff-house, which is actually built on levels in the cliff, and
  2. the cavate house, which is dug out, by using natural recesses or openings.

Some of the most famous of these are the North American cliff-dwellings, 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 which were utilized are often of considerable size, occurring in cliffs to a thousand feet in height, and approached by rock steps or log ladders.

References

  • 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.

See also

Search another word or see cliff-dwellingon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature