Monday, January 7, 2013

Meet the Sinagua: Tuzigoot and Montezuma's Castle

One of the coolest things about living in Arizona is the rich history of its original inhabitants. Peppered throughout the state are the ruins of ancient native American structures. One of these structures, and  probably the most impressive that I have seen thus far, is Montezuma's Castle. The National Park service describes it as "high-rise apartments" but It looks like it could make a formidable castle as well. 

Montezuma's Castle
Montezuma's Castle
 This cliff-dwelling was built by the Sinagua people around 700 AD.  How they built it I have no idea, as the structure is carved in limestone on the side of a sheer cliff face. The pictures don't really do it justice, but it's carved so high up that I imagine the builders had to use ladders and scaffolding, or maybe they even hung suspended from ropes from the top like the carvers of Mount Rushmore. Whatever the case may be, Montezuma's Castle is an impressive feat of ancient engineering.

Montezuma's Castle
Wide shot of Montezuma's Castle
  I don't know why the Sinagua built their home so far off the ground, but it stands to reason they did it for defense. Why else? Any attacking force would have a hell of a time scaling vertical rock while being bombarded with rocks and arrows and spears. 

 Another really cool ruin is an ancient Pueblo called Tuzigoot, also built by the Sinagua. Tuzigoot is a huge 3 story building with 110 rooms, so it must have housed a lot of people. This ruin you can actually walk around in and explore, so it really gives you a sense of how these people must have lived.

"Center" of Tuzigoot
Tuzigoot is somewhat pyramidal in shape, and the center is its highest point. It has almost like a parapet on top where lookouts must have stood. Tuzigoot seems to dominate the Verde River flood plane, and its easy to see why the Sinagua chose this locations. From this point you can see for miles in every direction. 

View from one of the rooms.
 Its amazing to me that ancient people lived here, especially because the climate is so brutal in the summer time.  I cant help but wonder how they did it, and how they thrived. Obviously they were a much tougher breed then the current crop of Arizonans, who cant live without bottled water and air conditioning. Further south in the Sonoran Desert are more ruins, which I have yet to explore. I cant wait to explore them. For me its a thrill to peak inside the lives of the people who came before us.

View from the top.


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