Kiet Siel, Tsegi Canyon, Arizona.jpg

Kiet Siel, Tsegi Canyon, Arizona

Concealed deep within the canyons of northern Arizona are the remains of well-preserved dwellings sheltered beneath an overhanging cliff of Navajo Sandstone. Over the period it was inhabited, 150 living spaces and granaries were built on a ledge high above the canyon floor, securing the community from enemies and inclement weather. At first glance, it’s difficult to distinguish the village from the alcove within which it sits; its well-disguised structures assembled from the same rock.

The Navajo called it Kiet Siel, which translates into “broken pottery scattered around.” The Hopi named it Kawestima; a sacred shrine for prayer offerings made for the spiritual world beyond. First occupied around 1250, over time it appears different groups of inhabitants occupied the cave’s site, as it contains more variation in room design and construction and more kivas than most U.S. southwestern cliff dwellings. Eventually, overcrowding, drought, and depletion of the soil from growing maize may have contributed to the departure of the Ancestral Puebloans. By 1320, the site was abandoned and today it remains a haunting and beautiful place.

- James Baker