In many ways, the turn-of-the-century work of J. W. Fewkes at the new Mesa Verde National Park set the stage for what was then regarded as archaeology. Fewkes efforts were deigned to publicize these great ruins of the Southwest to the people of the nation, who might then be enticed to visit the Park. Cliff dwellings like Spruce Tree House and Cliff Palace were spectacularly preserved, and a major thrust of Fewkes’ excavations was to permit a safe visit and to stabilize or preserve the sites.
From the Back Cover:
Mesa Verde was first described as “ruins so magnificent that they surpass anything of the kind known in the United States.”
Fewkes’ activities at Mesa Verde both opened and closed eras in Southwestern archaeology. The era of random pothunting and commercial exploitation was ended with Fewkes’ arrival in 1908. The serious twentieth-century scientific work and scholarly interest is dated from Fewkes’ arrival and his excavations and repairs.
Fewkes’ early research is expanded and updated in the Introduction by Larry V. Nordby. Nordby is the first archaeologist to study the ruins of cliff Palace at Mesa Verde since Fewkes. Started by the “ancestral Puebloans” [Anasazi] in the late 1100s Ad, Cliff Palace was abandoned around 1295 AD. Nordby’s new perspective evokes criticism of Fewkes’ early work.
“[D]espite [Nordby’s] familiarity with the ruin and his dispassionate professionalism, Nordby himself…stopped to admire the buildings.…he....stared up a three-story tower and murmured, ‘You know, its extraordinary that this thing is still standing after 700 years.’”