An Amazing Place With a Misleading Name – Montezuma’s Castle, Camp Verde, AZ

Posted on November 8, 2014

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Sinagua basket

They came, they stayed, and they left.

They were the Sinagua, a name derived by scientist Dr. Harold S. Colton in the 1930’s from the Spanish words sin (without) and agua (water).

Scholars are uncertain about the origins of these prehistoric people, and no one seems to know for sure why they left.

However,what they left behind has been enough to tell us they were a peaceful agricultural people, marking their lives by the seasons, by trade with other nearby tribes and by their religious customs.

DSCN1356And the most amazing thing they left behind was Montezuma’s Castle, so named because early settlers erroneously assumed that the imposing structure was constructed by Aztecs from Mexico.

Montezuma, however, wasn’t born until almost a century after this ‘castle’ was abandoned.

The five-story, 20-room apartment-style dwelling was built sometime between 1100 and 1300. Building against a cliff, some 100 feet above the valley, left the open land below for growing cotton and food.

Ladders were used to reach the various levels of their home ,then pulled up after them thus insuring that unwanted visitors stayed below.

The majority of what is seen today is original and is thought to be one of the best preserved sites from the period, partly because of its inaccessibility.

When the ruins were first explored, artifacts were discovered - fragments of pottery, corn cobs and these shoes woven from plant fibers.

When the ruins were first explored, artifacts were discovered – fragments of pottery, corn cobs and these shoes woven from plant fibers.

The structure is held together with mud and mortar and sealed with plaster. The original sycamore logs used for the ceiling/roof beams are still doing their job today.

A diorama prepared by a Park Service employee gives you an idea of how this structure was occupied.

A diorama prepared by a Park Service employee gives the visitor an idea of how this structure was occupied.

Hopi and other Native American consultants say dwellings like this one were meant to recycle back to the earth after the people left.

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The Sinaguas had neighbors, right next door. Their homes, however, survive only as ruins.

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Sycamore trees still grow beneath the Castle.

However, in 1906, the castle became a National Monument.

 

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Posted in: Travel - Arizona