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Alcove House

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Ceremonial Cave
c. 1350–1550; 1910 reconstruction, Jesse Nussbaum. Frijoles Canyon, Bandelier National Monument.
  • (Photograph by Lillian Makeda)

Writing in 1909 about the excavations he was directing at Frijoles Canyon for an article in American Anthropologist, Edgar Lee Hewett called the Ceremonial Cave “the most picturesque object to be studied thus far in the Rito de Frijoles.” It is probably the most famous site at Bandelier, having been publicized in postcards, calendars, books, and other literature promoting tourism in New Mexico and evoking the romance of the ancient Southwest. Many of those images stage a Native American who looks out over Frijoles Canyon as he climbs out of the kiva in the Ceremonial Cave.

The Ceremonial Cave, now commonly referred to as Alcove House, is roughly 80 feet wide and located 150 feet about the canyon floor. The cave originally contained a talus structure with three cavates and approximately 20 rooms built with stone masonry. At the front of the cave is a small subterranean kiva, measuring between 12 and 13 feet in diameter. In 1910, Jesse Nussbaum, a student in Edgar Hewett’s field school at Bandelier, restored the kiva and built a series of stairways and ladders providing access to the cave.

This National Park Services site is open to the public during regularly scheduled hours, with shuttle transportation from the White Rock Visitor Center required for park entry between late May and mid October.


Hendron, Jerome W. Prehistory of El Rito de Frijoles: Bandelier National Monument. Coolidge, AZ: Southwestern Monuments Association, 1940.

Historic American Building Survey. “The Ceremonial Cave, Bandelier National Monument, Sandoval County, New Mexico (Photographs, Historical and Descriptive Data).” Historic American Buildings Survey Report (HABS Survey No. NM-17). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1939.

Writing Credits

Lillian Makeda
Christopher Mead
Regina N. Emmer

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