Before visiting the US Southwest, I knew very little about pueblos, Puebloans or ancient pueblo cave dwellings. In brief: Puebloans are Native Americans who share agricultural, material and religious practices. There are currently 19 Pueblos that are still inhabited.
The Puye Cliff complex, not far from Santa Fe, New Mexico, is situated on Santa Clara Pueblo land and comprises cliff dwellings and, on the mesa top, the ruins of a big village.
These dwellings were inhabited roughly from 900 to 1580, and the site makes for a very interesting glimpse into ancient pueblo culture.
The location is beautiful, with stunning views of the Rio Grande Valley and mountains in the distance.
The two levels of cliff dwellings and the mesa top can be accessed by paths, stairways and ladders. Since I’m afraid of heights, I didn’t feel particularly attracted by the prospect of having to climb tall ladders, so I was very pleased to hear that the guided visit that would suit us best time-wise started with a jeep ride to the mesa top.
The first thing our guide said was “Please stay with the group!”
It seemed quite difficult to get lost on the flat mesa top, so someone said something witty. “We have quite a few snakes up here”, the guide continued. Everybody stayed with the group.
We didn’t have to climb any ladders to get up, but we were supposed to use the ladders to get back down.
I had taken it for granted that transport would be provided also downhill, so I panicked a little. You can see an example ladder in the photo below. This is one of the least scary ones, and had it been only for this one, I wouldn’t have hesitated.
But I did get a ride down and I wasn’t alone in the jeep either.
Whether you are fond of climbing ladders or not, I warmly recommend a visit to the Puye cave dwellings to learn about ancient pueblo culture and to marvel at the vistas from the mesa top. But remember to stay with the group!