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The fertile Montezuma Valley below Mesa Verde may have been home to 30,000 residents at it’s peak in the mid-1200’s. The people here lived in large valley pueblos, including Yellow Jacket Pueblo, a Conservancy preserve. Yellow Jacket is the largest pueblo built by the Mesa Verde Ancestral Pueboloans and contains the highest density of ceremonial structures ever found in the Southwest, including 182 kivas, a great kiva, 17 towers and a great tower. Construction of Yellow Jacket began by at least A.D. 950, and the masonry pueblo was likely occupied continuously until  1300 CE. Certain room blocks at the site were three stories high. According to David Breternitz, professor emeritus at the University of Colorado, Yellow Jacket is ” key to understanding the final Anasazi occupation of the area and how it relates to other sites of the period.”

Between 1981 and 1984, the Conservancy launched a program to preserve Yellow Jacket Pueblo, acquiring three tracts of land from separate land owners that contained 70 percent of all features and structures. In 1997 the Conservancy received a grant from the Colorado Historical Society’s State Historical Fund, which was then matched by donations from private donors and members, making it possible to purchase another 45 acres of the site. In addition to Yellow Jacket, the Conservancy also has three smaller Mesa Verde pueblo preserves in the Valley, including Mud Springs Pueblo, which covers 50 acres itself.

Featured in American Archaeology Magazine, Vol. 1 No.2, Summer 1997