Archaeology Favorites: Keet Seel
Navajo National Monument, Arizona
From Mesa Verde to Chaco Canyon, the American southwest holds unique archaeological ruins of massive pueblos, field houses, and cliff dwellings. Keet Seel, one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in the United States, is an amazing archaeological smorgasbord for anyone visiting the ruin. My mind was blown with almost every step I took within the dwelling. Keet Seel is not the easiest place to get to and the dwelling is closed to visitors much of the year (you can get a permit). When I was asked to help monitor erosion impacts at Keel Seel and surrounding archaeological sites, I jumped at the opportunity.
Construction at Keet Seel (or Kiet Siel) began around 1250 AD, when considerable numbers of people were amassing at larger sites throughout the southwest. Construction peaked between 1272 and 1275 AD, but halted around 1286 AD. Approximately 150 people lived at Keet Seel during the height of construction. The site itself was abandoned during the early 1300s.
This site is incredibly fragile and is not accessible to visitors without a permit. Although in an isolated location, Keet Seel is under threat of looting and general off-season visitation. People are constantly getting “lost” by going off trail and trying to find the trail to Keet Seel, even though the site is a long 8 mile trek from the Visitors Center; maybe they think the rangers are lying about the distance—they’re not. True, this site is incredible and worth the trek to visit. However, how can we—as cultural resource managers—balance the importance of public education with preservation?