Montezuma Castle

Looking up at the ancient stone architecture structure of Montezuma Castle
Montezuma Castle
An ancient irrigation ditch still flowing
A Sinagaua ditch still flows

Around 1200 CE the Sinagua began to build the beautiful five-story, 20-room Montezuma Castle, into an overhang in a limestone cliff above Wet Beaver Creek. Standing guard above a now mostly vanished 45-room pueblo, Montezuma Castle sheltered up to 300 people and was accessible only by climbing long, steep ladders.

Several miles up the creek is another Sinagua ruin, set into the crater wall of Montezuma Well. The well formed when a gigantic limestone cavern created by an underground hot spring collapsed, leaving a crater in the hill. Nearby Wet Beaver Creek cut an outlet through the well's base and the 1,000-gallon-per-minute spring at the bottom of the 55-foot-deep well maintained a constant water level. The valley's earliest inhabitants discovered the well and used the outlet to provide a steady supply of irrigation water.

The irrigation system they built was so good that when the Euro-Americans arrived, they only had to clean the silt out and water was flowing again immediately. However, because the ruins of Montezum were so accessible to the general public, they were thoroughly looted before any governmental protection happened. So much of the story of the people who lived here so long ago was lost.

There have been successful excavations and they lead to the structures being progressively built starting around 1200 CE and abandoned by 1400 CE, like the rest of the Hohokam and Mogollon world.

Chaco-style T doorways at Montezuma Castle
Chaco-style T doorways
at Montezuma Castle

Some Native American legends hold that our world, the Fourth World, started here long ago. Human beings fled the first three worlds just ahead of rising floodwaters caused by gods disgusted with human strife, greed and deceit. Human beings wiggled through this hole in the roof of the Third World and the floodwaters rose into the well and then halted, for now.

Looking up at the ancient stone architecture structure of Montezuma Castle
Montezuma Castle close up
Upper photo courtesy of Tomas Castelazo, CCA-by-SA 3.0 license
Lower photo courtesy of Wikipedia userid Postdlf, CCA-by-SA 3.0 License

Sites of the Ancients and approximate dates of occupation: