For many visitors to New Mexico, the artifacts of the Ancestral Pueblo people inspire imagination, and perhaps none more so than the remnants of cliff dwellings found throughout the Southwest. On our second day in Santa Fe, we toured Bandelier National Monument, named for the self-taught anthropologist and historian Adolph F.A. Bandelier. Long before he first viewed ancestral homes in Frijoles Canyon in 1880, the Pueblo people had thrived among the sheer cliffs and year-round stream, constructing a village and utilizing distinctive cave-room architecture.
If you look closely at the rendering above, you will notice dwellings nestled snugly against the cliff wall. Today, you can still see the remains of these homes. Long House is an 800-foot stretch of adjoining, multi-storied stone homes with hand-carved caves (cavates) as back rooms.
I was fascinated by the ladders located throughout the site, which gain visitors access to the caves, many of them featuring carved-out cooking spaces and benches. But the most amazing dwelling came at the end of the trail. 140 feet above the floor of Frijoles Canyon, the Alcove House was once home to approximately 25 Ancestral Pueblo people. Inside the alcove today are the viga holes (where the beams were inserted), niches of former homes and a reconstructed kiva.
Four separate ladders were required to ascend the 140 feet. You would want to be sure you had done everything you needed to before retiring for the night, lest you have to navigate those ladders by starlight!!!