Cliff dwellers

   Scattered over the southwestern part of the United States there are many ruined Indian villages. Some are on the ledges of steep cliffs. Others are in deep caves in the cliffs. Still others are at the foot of cliffs. We call the Indians who built these villages the cliff dwellers.
   The villages were built more than 200 years before Columbus discovered America. They had all been given up long before any white men saw them.
   The cliff dwellers were farmers. They raised corn and beans on the level land near by. They raised pumpkins and sunflowers, too. They did not have any horses or chickens or pigs or cows. But they did have tame turkeys and dogs.
   To add to the food they raised they gathered nuts and berries and killed deer, rabbits, and wild birds. Probably the hunters sometimes brought home bears and porcupines for food.
   The women made beautiful baskets and bowls, and they wove cotton cloth. They made jewelry of shells and of turquoise.
   Some of the earliest houses were built of sun-dried brick. But the later ones were built of stone fastened together with clay mortar. Many of the walls were covered with plaster. Some of the inside walls had pictures painted on them.
   The biggest buildings held many families. Each family, however, had only one room. Some buildings were storage rooms; others were meeting places.
   Many houses were built right against the cliff. They had only three walls. The cliff made the back wall. Some rooms were even dug out of the solid rock.
   The ruins of the cliff dwellings are all hard to reach. But it is easy to see why the builders chose cliffs as building places. The rock walls protected their villages from wind and rain. More important, they gave protection from enemies.
   No one knows the whole story of why the cliff dwellers left their villages. Probably many years of dry weather drove some of them away. We know that, about 650 years ago, there was a period of nearly 30 very dry years. But there may have been other reasons why they left.
Some of the Pueblo Indians of today have customs much like those of the cliff dwellers. Perhaps the Pueblos are their great-great-great-many-times-great-grand-children.