|Gila Cliff Dwellings History
Text from U.S National Park Service Gila Cliff Dwellings Monument Guide - GPO: 1998-432-907/60005
The People Who Lived Here
The earliest ruin that has been found within the monument is a pithouse of a type that was made from about 100-400 AD. People of this period, referred to by archeologists as the Mogollon, grew corn and beans, hunted, and gathered wild plant food. They made plain brown pottery and undoubtedly were skilled in crafts whose products have disappeared. Such things as nets and snares, baskets, and wooden tools last but a short time in open sites.
The monument also is the site for the remains of later structures, those prevalent in the area until about 1000 AD. These rectangular structures, unlike their predecessors, were built entirely above the ground. In constructing the buildings, the Mogollon uusually used masonry, although some were made of wattle (interwoven twigs). It was around this time that they developed their style of white pottery with black designs.
The cliff dwellings date to the late 1200s. Seven natural caves occur high in the southeast-facing cliff of a side canyon, and five of the caves contain the ruins of dwellings - a total of about 40 rooms. Walls of the dwellings were constructed of stone from the formation exposed to the cliff, the Gila Conglomerate. Thus, it was easily quarried by the Indians. Most of the timbers in the dwellings are the originals. Tree-ring dates obtained from these timbers range through the late 1270s and 1280s.
The cliff dwellers had abandoned their homes and fields by the early 1300s. why they left and where they went are unknown. Perhaps they joined other Pueblo Indian villages to the north or south.