By Heather Seltzer, field school student from SUNY Binghamton
On Sunday, we took a break from excavating and lab work and headed to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. After being decently shook up on the long bumpy road, we piled out of the van. Before we went to tour the Mimbres-Mogollon site or see the cliff dwellings, the gift shop caught our eyes. At the gift shop, three of us were inducted into being junior rangers by purchasing awesome vests. Next, the National Park volunteer toured us around the most intact Mimbres site, TJ Ruin. Before the tour began we were distracted by the whirling of a helicopter taking off with supplies for a wildfire over the mountain. Eventually the helicopter left and we walked around the site, locating the features and pottery sherds.
After lunch we headed over to the cliff dwellings which date to between A.D. 1275 and 1300. Starting the trail to the dwellings, I could not wait to reach the end. I remembered my grandpa telling me about his trip to the dwellings and being amazed when he finally saw the dwellings in the cliff. Snaking back and forth over bridges and through the cliffs we finally emerged at a break in the trees. I stopped to put more sunscreen on my pale skin and almost did not even realize I could see the dwellings across the cliff.
The dwellings were tucked into the cliff face. Having learned about the dwellings in my anthropology class last fall semester, I was excited to see them at last. Walking into the cave the coolness of the cave contrasted with the hot sun outside. I could see why the Mogollon people would want to live in the alcove of the cliff for protection from elements and as a defensive strategy. The rooms were constructed around the cliff walls and looked well planned out. Up and down ladders we went to discover the different uses of the rooms. After a close encounter of a rattlesnake kind we hiked back down and returned back to Mule Creek.