Montezuma Castle National Monument and Montezuma Well, Arizona

Montezuma Castle National Monument features a 20-room cliff dwelling constructed by the southern Sinaguan people of central Arizona between 1100 and 1300 AD. The soft, already-eroded limestone here was easily shaped into living quarters and storage spaces that supported a community of up to 200 people. In addition to the visible structure of “Montezuma Castle,” housing was in alcoves or cavates in separate areas of the cliff; for example, remnants of a 45-room, 5-story pueblo exist just a few hundred feet from the Montezuma dwelling. To create these living spaces, naturally-existing alcoves were enlarged and then partitioned using river rocks and chipped limestone, cemented together by mud plaster. Roofing was done using beams fashioned from sycamore with overlaid brush.

This stationary agricultural community was supported by the Beaver Creek for upwards of 300 years until an apparent mass migration about 1400 AD. Flowing year round, the creek provided water for crops of beans, corn, squash, and cotton as well as attracting potential game. Supplementing this food supply were hunted or trapped animals and the wild plants gathered for consumption (as well as other uses). All in all, the Sinaguans seemed to have lived well here and generated enough surplus to take advantage of their position at the crossroads of existing trade routes, exchanging salt, cotton textiles, and jewelry for obsidian, shells, turquoise, and ornate pottery.

Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Remnants of Castle A – a 45-room, 5-story dwelling, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Remnants of Castle A – a 45-room, 5-story dwelling, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Castle A, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Castle A, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Limestone cliffs with Montezuma Castle visible, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Limestone cliffs with Montezuma Castle visible, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Located four miles northeast, Montezuma Well is a large spring-fed basin that supported a community of between 100 and 150 people from ca. 1125 to 1400 AD. The water collects in the basin after seeping upward through the surrounding soft limestone but up to 1.5 million gallons per day leak through a crack in the bowl; it’s this constant flow of water that was harnessed and channeled for irrigation. Remains of living quarters at the Well include two sets of cliff dwellings totaling approximately 30 rooms, the Swallet Rooms located at the base of the Well cliffs, a cliff-top pueblo (likely a later transitory shelter for the migrating Hopi) and an earlier pit house dating from ca. 1050 which is believed to have been built by the earlier inhabitants, the Hohokam.

Montezuma Well, Arizona

Montezuma Well, Arizona

Montezuma Well, Arizona

Montezuma Well, Arizona

Cliff dwellings, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Cliff dwellings, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Swallet Ruins, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Swallet Ruins, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Swallet Ruins, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Swallet Ruins, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Swallet Ruins, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Swallet Ruins, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Swallet Ruins, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Swallet Ruins, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Cliff-top dwelling, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Cliff-top dwelling, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Sinaguan irrigation channel, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Sinaguan irrigation channel, Montezuma Well, Arizona

Excavated pit house, ca. 1050 AD, near Montezuma Well, Arizona

Excavated pit house, ca. 1050 AD, near Montezuma Well, Arizona

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