Who were the Cliff Dwellers and why did the Anasazi build the Cliff Palace in southwestern Colorado?

The Anasazi were called Cliff Dwellers because some of their largest buildings were built into the walls of cliffs.

The most impressive was at Mesa Verde in what is now southwestern Colorado. The great Cliff Palace there was home to about 250 people. One of the first non-natives to see the ruins of Cliff Palace, F. H. Chapin, compared it to “an immense ruined castle.”

It is unclear why the Anasazi started building structures in cliff walls. Perhaps they feared other southwestern Indians who threatened to raid the Anasazi stores of corn. Their cliff dwellings would certainly help shield them from a sneak attack.

Another possible reason for building this style of house was that the cliff above provided protection. This roof of rock was a natural shelter from the rain and snow.

Sheltered beneath a long shelf of overhanging rock, Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde, in present-day Colorado, protected its inhabitants from both invaders and bad weather.