Leslie Ray Ware


Tonto National Monument Upper Ruins

The 40-room Upper Cliff Dwelling is nestled in a cave overlooking Tonto Basin. Among the many theories as to why people began building in this cliff; protection from the elements is certainly a strong possibility. The cave is dry even during the worst weather, and receives the full benefit of the morning sun in winter and cooling shade in summer.

 It is thought that construction of the Upper and Lower Cliff Dwellings began in about 1300 AD and continued until the Tonto Basin was abandoned sometime between 1400 - 1450 AD. The size of the cave under the cliff (about 70' wide x 80' high x 60' deep) allowed for a large work area that contains a cistern, capable of holding approximately 100 gallons of water.

The Upper Cliff Dwelling has small doorways which helped retain heat; many were actually sealed when the rooms were no longer being used. Some of the doorways are shaped like a "T" or half-"T", which may have reduced drafts. It is thought that they perhaps were used to hold jars or help someone balance while entering the room. However, they resemble the "Sacred T" windows of Mexico and Central America, in which the "Divine Breath Of God" could enter

It is still possible to see the fingerprints of the ancient people who built these remarkable structures in the mud walls.

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