Ancient history gets new digs

Ancient history gets new digs

New Mesa Verde Visitor Center brings it all to one place
Did you know?

In addition to displays, artifacts and maps, the Mesa Verde National Park Visitor and Research Center is full of interesting facts about the park.
It’s not actually a mesa (flat) but a cuesta, with a 7 percent grade.
That grade makes it warmer, so the growing season for corn and other crops for the ancestral Puebloans on top was 20 days longer than in the valleys surrounding it.
More than 5,000 archaeological sites from distinct periods between A.D. 500 and 1300 have been identified in the park.
About 600 cliff dwellings have been discovered, dating from about A.D. 1220 to 1300.
About 75 percent of the park has burned in wildfires since its establishment as a national park by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. Fire destroys, but it also has helped archaeologists discover more sites and artifacts.
During the summer monsoon season, Mesa Verde can receive up to 100 lightning strikes in a 24-hour period.
The park is home to more than 200 species of birds, five amphibians, 16 reptiles and 74 mammals. Seep springs in certain areas provide a moist microclimate that allows moss, ferns and orchids to thrive.
In 1978, Mesa Verde was designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, one of the original 12 sites in the world to be so designated. More than 960 sites now are acknowledged on the list.
More than 572,000 people visited the park in 2011, creating an estimated $43.4 million in local economic benefit.

If you go

The grand opening of the Mesa Verde National Park Visitor and Research Center will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday. The center is off U.S. Highway 160 before the entrance to the park. Gov. John Hickenlooper will be among the dignitaries in attendance and will sign Senate Bill 13-270, Wildfire Preparedness and Emergency Response Funds, at the close of the ceremony. Entrance fees to the park will be waived Thursday to celebrate the occasion.
The archive and collection areas will be open for public viewing from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Memorial Day.
During the next week, the park is sponsoring activities related to the Indian Arts and Culture Festival. All will take place at the Visitor and Research Center unless otherwise noted. Events include:
7 p.m. Friday: Concert by the Four Corners Community Band at Morefield Amphitheater.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday: Indian Arts and Culture Festival.
10:30 A.M. to 3 P.M. SATURDAY: Rug auction at the Morefield Store Patio.
10 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. Saturday and May 26: Pueblo Indian dances.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 26: Indian Arts and Culture Festival.
For more information, call 529-4465 or visit www.nps.gov/meve.

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Ancient history gets new digs

‘THE ANCIENT ONES’ by Edward J. Fraughton, graces the walkway to the new Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center. The sculpture, of a climbing ancestral Puebloan man, was one of three purchased for the center by the Mesa Verde Foundation.
Park Point is visible from a window in the rotunda of the new Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center, which will hold its grand opening Thursday.
Bill Strong from Lynchburg, Va., takes a moment to enjoy “In the Moment,” Joe Cajera Jr.’s sculpture of a storyteller that sits in the rotunda of the new Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center. Strong said he’s been on the road since April 12 visiting America’s national parks.
A 20-foot-tall sculpture of an ancestral Puebloan climbing a cliff face elicits admiration and a photo opportunity for visitors from Germany arriving at the new Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center. The sculpture, called “The Ancient Ones” by Edward J. Fraughton, was one of three purchased for the center by the Mesa Verde Foundation.
An interactive, three-dimensional map at the new Mesa Verde Visitor Center allows guests to see everything from where the main ruins are to the locations of the Civilian Conservation Corps camps from the Depression era and areas that contain old-growth piñon groves. To the left is a metal map that allows visually impaired visitors to get a sense of the park’s topography.
Tara Travis, curator of the Mesa Verde National Park collections, will have spent three solid years packing and moving the collection of about 3 million artifacts when the move to the new Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center is complete in the fall. The items will be stored in the new repository, which includes cabinets with microclimates to preserve fragile items.
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