Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Montezuma's Castle

Montezuma's Castle is amazing! There is a pleasant 1/3 mile loop in the valley below it where you can walk and gaze at its beauty from afar.  Access into the castle ended in 1951 to help preserve it.
The southern Sinagua natives built this five story, 20 room dwelling sometime between 1100 and 1300.  By 1425 the inhabitants had abandoned the dwelling. When European-Americans first observed the ruins in the 1860s they named them for the famous Aztec emperor Montezuma in the mistaken belief that he had been connected to their construction.  In fact, the dwelling was abandoned more than 40 years before Montezuma was born!  The structure was not a castle either in the traditional sense, but instead functioned more like a prehistoric high rise apartment complex!
The castle sits 100 feet above the valley. Most of this structure is original.  Note all the openings in the cliff face below the main castle that would have also been dwellings!!!
The castle actually looks like it would be a fairly easy walk from the valley to the base of the cliff.
Next to Montezuma's Castle in the cliff face are lots of holes. I wasn't sure what we were looking at until later reading this informational sign.  It states that at one time another castle existed against the cliff face.  It was only referred to as Castle A.  Castle A was five stories high and had about 45 rooms!  I learned that the trick to counting the number of stories is to sight in on the small beam holes that would have been the roofs between stories.
This picture shows four stories starting with the stacked rock structures on the valley floor.  Two stories were built into the large L-shaped opening.  Watch for the beam holes and compare against the previous picture for your accuracy in counting the levels. 
This shows all five stories.  The recesses in the limestone cliff face start out as natural erosion from wind and water and then are enhanced by the people establishing dwellings.  Some literature stated that the man enhanced tunnels are called cavates and are all very similar.  They tend to be 10 feet deep.
One more look from the far side of the loop.  It is sooooo beautiful and hard to leave.
This is an Internet picture from on top the castle.  Isn't the valley below gorgeous!  The waterway is Beaver Creek which flows into the Verde River.  This community was estimated to have a population between 150-200 inhabitants. By 1200, communities extended all along the Verde River and its tributaries, which had floodplains for cultivating crops.  These waterways were travel corridors, connecting an estimated 6,000 people in the valley to large populations to the northeast and south. Around 1300 the Verde Valley had at least 40 large villages of which the Montezuma's Well dwellings and Tuzigoot pueblo were part.  More on those later!
Recently we were out exploring the area and ended up down on the Verde River in an area called Beasley Flats. Check out the dwellings all along the cliff face! Sooooooo amazing!!!