Monday, February 16, 2015

Montezuma Castle

Back to Phoenix today, down I17.  Decided to look in on Montezuma’s Castle on the way.  Nothing to do with Montezuma, the site was misnamed by the first European visitor who assumed all advanced cultures were Aztec.  An elaborate, five-story, multi-room residence built into a limestone cliff by the Sinagua tribe (literally, “without water”).  The tribe flourished in the region between 1,000AD and 1,400AD after which they dispersed.  It being President’s Day Weekend, park admissions were free.

After the castle was discovered, a nearby artesian well was discovered, also occupied by the Sinagua (in the desert, water is life) and also named (mistakenly) Montezuma’s Well on the assumption that the same people must have used it.  Home to about 150 people, it was formed from a limestone sink and a spring that still flows today.

Enchanted by the success of these ancient peoples in surviving in such a hostile environment, we detoured to the Tuzigoot National Monument near Clarkdale.  A southern sinagua village crowning a long ridge 120 feet above the Verde Valley (remember the Verde River?), it housed some 50 persons for 100 years before growing into a village.

Montezuma's Castle

Montezuma's Well

Cliff-dwelling at the well

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