“People of conspicuous elegance” is how the Ancestral Pueblo people of Mesa Verde have been described. Rarefied living, 8,300 feet above sea level on the Colorado Plateau, their cliff dwellings were the largest in the Southwestern US—there were thirty-eight rooms and three plazas in the Balcony House that Magellan and I toured.
If Architectural Digest had existed in 1200 AD, Mesa Verde would have been cover material.
And a photo of the thirteen-foot-long necklace found in a kiva here would have appeared in Vogue’s August 1275 issue.
At its height, fifty thousand people lived in the area, far more than nowadays. But in the 1290s Mesa Verde came to a sudden and mysterious end. What happened?