Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

From Chaco Canyon I drove back north to Aztec Ruins, a large great house site that contains a reconstructed kiva where visitors are permitted to sit inside. This site flourished concurrently with Chaco Canyon but continued to grow after the waning of construction there, becoming a more important outlier in the 12th century. In addition to the reconstructed great kiva, the site can also boast original timber-roofed rooms. It was very interesting to be able to stand in these rooms much as they were nine or ten centuries ago. Finally, the site has one of the few known tri-walled structures with 22 rooms encircling a kiva set apart from the great house though it has been backfilled for stabilization and preservation.

Corner of room with original room and metate, used for grinding corn, ca. 1080 - 1130 AD, Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Corner of room with original room and metate, used for grinding corn, ca. 1080 – 1130 AD, Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Aligned doorways in roofed rooms, ca. 1080 - 1130 AD, Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Aligned doorways in roofed rooms, ca. 1080 – 1130 AD, Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Original roof construction, ca. 1080 - 1130 AD, Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Original roof construction, ca. 1080 – 1130 AD, Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

View through T-shaped door into courtyard, ca. 1080 - 1130 AD, Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

View through T-shaped door into courtyard, ca. 1080 – 1130 AD, Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Backfilled tri-wall kiva, 1080 - 1130 AD, Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Backfilled tri-wall kiva, 1080 – 1130 AD, Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Though a reconstruction such as the one done at the Great Kiva would not be considered proper archaeology today, it was acceptable in the 1930s. Surprisingly, even though much new knowledge has come to light since then, it is still considered an accurate model of what archaeologists believe kivas to have been like. Having looked at many great kivas from above over the past few weeks, I can tell you it was a very different experience being able to actually be in one. Just as you can feel the hallowed atmosphere inside churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and other religious structures, the same is true of a kiva. It did not take a stretch of the imagination to guess what impact these ceremonial structures must have had on the Ancestral Puebloans. However inappropriate it was that this kiva was reconstructed on the ruins, I believe that since it already exists, it at least provides valuable understanding to modern visitors.

Interior of reconstructed kiva, ca. 1080 - 1130 AD (reconstruction 1930s), Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Interior of reconstructed kiva, ca. 1080 – 1130 AD (reconstruction 1930s), Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Interior of reconstructed kiva, ca. 1080 - 1130 AD (reconstruction 1930s), Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Interior of reconstructed kiva, ca. 1080 – 1130 AD (reconstruction 1930s), Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Smaller great kiva in foreground with reconstructed kiva in background, 1180 - 1130 AD, Aztec Ruins, New Mexico

Smaller great kiva in foreground with reconstructed kiva in background, 1180 – 1130 AD, Aztec Ruins, New Mexico