Exploring Mesa Verde

A view from the trail of the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde

Photo of Cliff Palace by Morgan Meik

DURING A TIME when gathering is not only looked down upon but dangerous, thinking back to last fall semester, when 25 students in associate professor Travis Anderson’s PHIL 214 Philosophy of Architecture expedition jostled each other down a stone trail to see awe-inspiring ancient architecture, is bittersweet.

The Mesa Verde ruins of the Ancient Puebloans are a testament to the determination of humanity to adapt and thrive amidst difficulties. Those ancient peoples (ca. 1190 AD) carved habitats out of stone to protect their communities. They lived together, inches close, under rock overhangs with cliffs for their front steps. It’s safe to say they clung to each other for all kinds of support.

I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to document this field trip for the college communications team. Brigham Young University, and the College of Humanities in particular, have always done their best to keep students and faculty feeling connected and cared for. Trips like the one to Mesa Verde are part of the Humanities+ initiative to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world understanding. But they do more than that. They strengthen relationships among peers, times, and cultures. They give us a greater understanding of where we come from and who we are.

Last fall, we couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like day-to-day in the Cliff Palace. There, most of the dwellings shared walls and required residents to pass through adjoining apartments, deeper into the rock, to arrive at a particular destination. In those close quarters, moving through the dark and stillness toward one another’s sound—gathering—must have been the default. Isolation? Unimaginable.

Now, due to COVID-19, gathering has gained new meaning, both in physical presence and in purpose. In a global crisis that calls for total solidarity, we gather by socially distancing for the vulnerable, for the researchers. We gather against a virus that doesn’t recognize our human-made divisions.

Gathering can take place in many ways: physically, digitally, purposefully. As a student of BYU, I am so grateful for the emphasis placed on expanding views and experiences beyond what might be expected, and for the unique connections I have found in these strange circumstances at my own university.

Mesa Verde Philosophy of Architecture 214 class trip

Photos by Lupita Herrera and Erin Jackson


To view a student video from this class trip, visit https://byu.box.com/s/srss6o2k203inbrmi7nywdupjugsmudx

—Ryann Woods, Graphic Design ’21