1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cliff-dwellings

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CLIFF-DWELLINGS, the general archaeological term for the habitations of primitive peoples, formed by utilizing niches or caves in high cliffs, with more or less excavation or with additions in the way of masonry. Two special sorts of cliff-dwelling are distinguished by archaeologists, (1) the cliff-house, which is actually built on levels in the cliff, and (2) the cavate house, which is dug out, by using natural recesses or openings. A great deal of attention has been given to the North American cliff-dwellings, particularly among the canyons of the south-west, in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, some of which are still used by Indians. There has been considerable discussion as to their antiquity, but modern research finds no definite justification for assigning them to a distinct primitive race, or farther back than the ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians. The area in which they occur coincides with that in which other traces of the Pueblo tribes have been found. The niches which were utilized are often of considerable size, occurring in cliffs of a thousand feet high, and approached by rock steps or log-ladders.

See the article, with illustrations and bibliography, in the Handbook of American Indians (Washington, 1907).