Skeleton Mesa

These are the cliff pockets of Skeleton Mesa and Dowozhiebito Canyon located in the First Nations Navajo (Diné) Reservation in northern Arizona to the southeast of Page and Lake Powell. These remarkable pockets are very large cliffs overlooking the creek below. In this image, there are at least three cliff dwellings of the ancient Anasazi peoples who are believed to be ancestors of the current First Nation Hopi people.

The Anasazi lived in this area for over a thousand years yet these stone walled cliff villages seem to have only been occupied for about fifty years. These cliff houses are located in the complex Navajo Canyon system, a network of canyons and mesas that fall away from the uplift of nearby Navajo Mountain, the great rounded dome that is a sacred place to the Diné, Hopi and Paiute peoples.

To the right of Dowozhiebito Canyon and off the right side of this image is Keet Seel Canyon, home of the Keet Seel Ruin in the Navajo National Monument. Sitting on the Kaibito Plateau across the distance are the small tribal communities of Shonto, Kykotsmovi Village, Tuba City and Kaibito, Arizona.

These canyons are estimated to be about two hundred million years old and are composed of layered sand dunes that have solidified under extreme pressure. This is highly porous sandstone and served as an aquifer for collecting and storing rainwater, which is why there are cliff houses in this area. Also, rainwater percolates down through the permeable rock and emerges into the canyons through seeps and springs. Sometimes it collects in alluvium traps forming a high water table that supports natural vegetation and provided a dependable supply of water for agriculture.

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