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September 1938Volume VIII, Number 1.

Don Watson

At last visitors to Mesa Verde National Park are able to see a cliff dwelling as it looked when it was inhabited 700 years ago by the Cliff Dwellers. Spruce Tree House has been completely reconstructed, complete to the finest detail. Once again the walls rise to the roof of the cave. Once again the roofs of the kivas and houses are in place. Pottery and baskets are again sitting in the courts and houses and the tools of the ancients are strewn about the village. The last touch of realism is added to the scene by fifty Cliff Dwellers who are busily engaged at their daily tasks.

Of course, the reconstruction is only in miniature, but the work has been done in such fine detail that it does give a very fair idea of how Spruce Tree house looked when it was inhabited by the Cliff-Dwellers. Visitors are no longer forced to view the empty, partially fallen ruins of the cliff dwellings and attempt to visualize the life and activity that was once there.

The diorama was constructed in the Park museum last winter by the members of the museum staff. No special appropriation was made for the work and much overtime and night work was necessary in order to finish it before the travel season began. The reconstruction is on a scale of three-fourths of an inch to the foot and every detail has been carried out with all possible fidelity. Every wall in Spruce Tree House Ruin was carefully measured and studied, and each one has been reproduced in detail. Stones, spalls, mortar and plaster have all been faithfully copied.

The artifacts are copies of actual artifacts from the Museum collections. Seventy pieces of pottery and sixty baskets have been painstakingly reproduced. Manos, metates and cooking stones are in their places; stone axes, mats, feather blankets, bows and arrows are plainly in evidence. Fires flicker in the fire pits in the open courts and in the rooms and kivas. Ladders lead up to second and third - story roofs where much of the activity is taking place.

The Cliff Dwellers themselves are busy at the many tasks that occupied their lives. Some of the men are building houses and kivas, one is weaving, another is returning from the hunt with a cottontail rabbit. Other men are bringing corn, beans and squash down from the mesa top fields. One of the men is telling stories to a group of boys and four very decrepit old men are sitting in the sun, talking of the times when things were better.

The women are busy at their housekeeping duties. Some of the girls, with great water jars on their heads, are bringing water in from a spring at the head of the canyon; others are grinding corn at the metates. Some of the women are cooking corn cakes over the flickering fires, others are boiling stews in large, corrugated cooking jars. On the house tops women are husking corn and spreading it on the roofs to dry. Squash and beans are also being prepared for storage.

Small children, too young to have tasks to perform, play about the village. Nursing babies are being cared for by their mothers. Others slightly older, are taking their first tottering steps under the guidance of older sisters and brothers.

The scene is remarkably complete. Even though it is entirely in miniature every detail has been reproduced. Only the actual spark of life that was once in the Cliff Dwellers is missing and that must be supplied by the imagination of the onlookers. Heretofore visitors have had difficulty in imagining how the cliff dwellings looked when they were inhabited. Even when in the ruins the visitors have been able to see only the cold, dead walls.

Now all is different. After going through the ruins and seeing the things in the Museum the visitors are able to stand in front of the new Spruce Tree House diorama and actually see and understand what the Cliff Dwellings were like 700 years ago when they were "alive."

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