Thursday, August 22, 2013

Great Sites: The Secret Passages of Coyote Village

This week I want to talk about one of the unique features of the Mesa Verdeans that fascinates me—mysterious doors and passages!  Early in the history of these remote people they built narrow (2-foot by 3-foot) doors to tunnels that connect a room to a kiva or a tower.   I haven’t seen that anywhere else.   But at Mesa Verde it is quite common.  That is one thing that makes the small, unassuming ruins at “Far View Sites” so interesting to me.  This site sits on top of the “mesa” not far from the Far View Lodge in the center of the park.  The area was populated between 900 and 1300 A.D.--fairly early in the timeline—and was a farming community.   It is called “Far View” because of its stunning views of the countryside, canyons, and surrounding mountains.

The most elaborate example of tunnels lies in Coyote Village, one of the ruins featured on the Far View Site trail loop.  Next week I will talk more about the loop, but this week I want to concentrate on the mysterious passages of this site.

Coyote Village has 30 ground floor rooms (the upper floor(s) are gone now), five kivas and a watch
tower.  Three of the kivas, the tower, and a room are all linked by tunnels.

[view video]  Starting with the kiva in the center of the plaza, it looks like a typical kiva with ventilator chamber, stone deflector, (back fill covers the fire pit and sipapu), stone pilasters … but then there is a curious door in one of the bench-like banquettes with a tunnel that leads under the plaza to the kiva next to it.

That kiva not only has the door from the central kiva but another door mounted in the corner of the chamber fronting the ventilator shaft that tunnels to the watch tower.  The most common connection at Mesa Verde is from a kiva to a watch tower.

When entering the watch tower from the plaza, one would have to be careful not to step into the hole in the floor  just inside the door and fall into the tunnel exit from the kiva.

Not only did the kiva connect to the tower, it had a third tunnel that connected to a room and another kiva in the corner of the village. 

The third kiva in the link had a door to a passage to a rectangular room.   Oddly,  there is no sign of the tunnel  from the central kiva inside the kiva suggesting the tunnel went to the room.

But, an inspection of the rectangular room only turns up a drop down into the tunnel to the third kiva.  I suspect that the tunnel from the central kiva comes up between the third kiva and the room.
[end of video]

I don’t know why I find these passages so intriguing.  Perhaps it’s that childhood fascination with sneaking around in tunnels and secret passages.  I’m sure there is a very practical explanation for them other than sneaking around.  It gets pretty cold on these high mesas in the winter.  Perhaps this was just a way to move around without having to go outside.  But, if that is the answer, I wonder why all of the rooms weren’t connected this way.

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