Montezuma Castle, tucked into a recess of the Verde Formation, and perched 150 feet above the valley floor, is a prime example of one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America. This five-story structure, made of stone and chinked with mud from nearby Beaver Creek, housed about 50 people in it’s twenty rooms. The Sinagua people used these rooms for storing corn, cotton, beans and squash, and for community gatherings and living spaces.
They grew crops in small plots, irrigated by primitive irrigation methods, and made plain brown pots in a variety of sizes used mainly for cooking and storage of ground corn and grains, processed by grinding on a metate. Cotton was used in weaving cloth, and traded for items of copper, azurite and argillite which they used for fashioning trinkets; along with shells and turquoise.
A simple but resilient people, they weren’t without their problems of warfare. The height of these ruins, and the ladders in which they employed to reach the structure, protected them from the dangers of invading tribes. A much larger structure at ground level did not survive the elements of time, perhaps because of it’s vulnerability to attack by their enemies, or maybe because of it’s more open exposure to the harsh desert climate. But, evidence shows a blend of different cultures were adopted by the Sinagua people. Today, the Hopi tribes of northern Arizona can trace their roots to the Sinaguans by similarity of not just their cultural heritage, but also their spiritual legacy.
So, what does the Aztec emperor, Montezuma have to do with these ruins? Absolutely nothing. These ruins, like the others found in the Verde Valley, were abandoned 100 years before Montezuma was delivered into this world.
Coordinates: 34°36’47”N 111°50’24”W
Location: 2800 Montezuma Castle Highway, Camp Verde, AZ 86322
Write to: Montezuma Castle National Monument P. O. Box 219 Camp Verde, AZ 86322
Visitor Center (928) 567-3322
Park Headquarters (928) 567-5276
Fax (928) 567-3597