The truth about Colorado’s Mummy Lake
The 1,000-year-old structure thought to be an ancestral water reservoir may have been something else.
In Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park, a large 1,000-year-old structure long thought to be an Ancestral Puebloan water reservoir may not have been built to store water after all, a new study suggests.
Instead, the so-called Mummy Lake — which isn’t a lake and has never been associated with mummies — likely held ancient ritual ceremonies, researchers say.
Mummy Lake is a sandstone-lined circular pit that was originally 90 feet (27.5 meters) across and 22 feet (6.65 m) deep. In 1917, American naturalist Jesse Walter Fewkes pegged the structure as a prehistoric water reservoir. Several subsequent studies of Mummy Lake have also supported this view, leading the National Parks Service to officially name the structure “Far View Reservoir” in 2006. (Far View refers to the group of archaeological structures located on the northern part of the park’s Chapin Mesa ridge, where Mummy Lake is also situated.)
In the new study, researchers analyzed the hydrologic, topographic, climatic and sedimentary features of Mummy Lake and the surrounding cliff area. They concluded that, contrary to what previous research had determined, the pit wouldn’t have effectively collected or distributed water.