Round Tower of the Cliff Place



Looking over my photographs from Mesa Verde National Park I find the Cliff Palace Round Tower to be a unique structure. You can see it in this shot taken from the Cliff Palace Loop overlook…..

The Round Tower is on the upper left, between two kivas (appearing to be two round pits). The round shape of the tower is not readily apparent from this angle.

It is easier to see here from this photograph taken from the Cliff Palace footpath from the mesa top.

The Round Tower is on the left.

Here is a closer view, with surrounding structures for context.

Click me for more Mesa Verde works in my Fine Art Gallery

Inspiration and Influence

In 1941 the National Park Service commissioned noted photographer Ansel Adams to create a photo mural for the Department of the Interior Building in Washington, DC. The theme was to be nature as exemplified and protected in the U.S. National Parks. The project was halted because of World War II and never resumed.

The holdings of the National Archives Still Picture Branch include 226 photographs taken for this project, most of them signed and captioned by Adams (the following photograph had neither title or caption). Almost all are in the public domain, as is the following image. Adams was allowed free access to the ruins and had the luxury of time to stage perfect lighting.

The creator compiled or maintained the parent series, Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments, between 1941–1942. Ansel Adams provided no caption to this photograph; this information was compiled by Michael Stephen Wills from the United States National Archives Catalog “Series: Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments”.

Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter’s Desert View Watchtower (1932), on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, was inspired in part by this round tower. She traveled throughout the southwest to find inspiration and authenticity for her buildings. The architecture of the ancestral Puebloan people of the Colorado Plateau served as her model. This particular tower was patterned after those found at Hovenweep and the Round Tower of Mesa Verde. Colter indicated that it was not a copy of any that she had seen, but rather modeled from several cliff dwellings.

The following photographs are my closest approximation to Ansel Adams composition. Taken during a public Ranger guided tour of Cliff Palace, I was standing next to the Square Tower (see my post “Square Tower as Viewed from the Kiva.”

The same image produced as Black and White.


The Round Tower is more compelling when viewed from below, in the following photographs.

Looking through these images I challange you, the reader, to compare the Round Tower with the right angles, straight walls of the other above ground structures and, then, the round Kivas in the grounds, essentially the Round Tower is an extension of the round kiva and sipapu toward the heavens.

Click Me for more background on the discovery and excavation of the Cliff Palace

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