Montezuma Castle
National Monument
Arizona
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Ancient Farmers of the Verde Valley

Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot invite you into the world of the Southern Sinagua, who flourished in the Verde Valley hundreds of years ago. For thousands of years, hunters and gatherers had roamed the Verde Valley. The area's characteristic agriculture and architecture emerged later; influenced by the neighboring Hohokam and the Northern Sinagua.

The first permanent settlements here resembled those of the Hohokam culture from southern and central Arizona. Between 700 and 900 CE (Common Era) some Hohokam moved north into the valley. These productive farmers grew corn, beans, squash, and cotton using techniques like canal irrigation. They also made their distinct red-on-buff pottery and built ballcourts. One-room pit houses perched on terraces overlooked their crop fields in the bottomlands.

Northern Sinagua culture, centered around present-day Flagstaff, clearly influenced the above-ground masonry dwellings that appeared about 1125. Small structures and later pueblos, like those built by Ancestral Puebloan people living north of the Mogollon Rim, rose along major streams. By 1150, Southern Sinagua began building large pueblos, often on hilltops or in cliff alcoves. Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot villages reached their maximum size in the 1300s and were occupied for another century.

No one knows why the Southern Sinagua migrated away from their pueblos by the early 1400s. It may have been overpopulation, depletion of resources, disease, conflicts within or between groups, climate change, or perhaps spiritual beliefs. Whatever the reasons, many Southern Sinagua likely migrated northward to pueblo villages. Others may have stayed in the Verde Valley and returned to hunter-gatherer ways.

Daily Life of the Southern Sinagua

The Southern Sinagua lived principally by farming and supplemented their staple crops by hunting and gathering. Their surroundings offered an abundance of resources: water from the river and streams, fertile land alongside waterways, and sufficient game—including deer, antelope, rabbit, bear, muskrat, and duck—to augment a diet that relied heavily on corn. They also mined a salt deposit a few miles from present-day Camp Verde. Evidence suggests that salt was traded widely throughout the region.

Skilled Southern Sinagua artisans fashioned stone tools like axes, knives, and hammers, as well as manos and metates for grinding corn. Other crafts included bone awls and needles, handsome woven garments of cotton, and ornaments of shell, turquoise, and a local red stone (argillite) for personal wear.

Another specialty was reddish-brown pottery, undecorated but highly polished. These plain vessels probably served for cooking and storage. Decorated pottery vessels found at archeological sites in this area arrived by trade with neighbors to the north, south, or east.

Southern Sinagua builders made do with local materials for their pueblos. The cobble walls at Tuzigoot are massive but poorly balanced. The limestone at Montezuma Castle is fairly soft and splits unevenly. Yet Montezuma Castle, protected from the elements, was so well built that it has stood for over 700 years. It is one of the best-preserved prehistoric structures in the Southwest.

Visiting the Park

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Montezuma Castle

Southern Sinagua farmers built this five-story, 2O-room dwelling sometime between 1100 and 1300. It occupies a cliff recess 100 feet above the valley. Early American settlers marveled at the structure. They assumed that it was Aztec in origin, hence the name Montezuma Castle. A short distance west, nudging a cliff base, is Castle A. Now badly deteriorated, it was once an imposing five-story apartment-like building with about 45 rooms. Occupants found reliable water in the creek and fertile land on the nearby terrace.

Montezuma Well

Montezuma Well has all the surprise of a lake and lush vegetation in the midst of desert. It is a limestone sink formed long ago, still fed by continuously flowing springs. The Southern Sinagua irrigated crops with its waters. In places, you can see traces of the lime-coated irrigation ditches. The pit house on view dates from about 1050. Southern Sinagua dwellings here range in size from one-room houses to large pueblos. Between 1125 and 1400 about 100-150 people lived here.

Location Montezuma Castle National Monument and Montezuma Well are 50 miles south of Flagstaff, AZ, off I-17.

Activities Both Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot have visitor centers with exhibits on Southern Sinagua people who lived in this region. All three sites have short, hard-surfaced walking trails.

For a Safe Visit Stay on trails. Be alert for snakes. Avoid overexposure to sun and heat. For firearms regulations, check the websites.

Accessibility We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to a visitor center; ask a ranger; call, or check our website.

Related Sites You can learn more about Sinagua culture at Walnut Canyon National Monument, just east of Flagstaff, and Wupatki National Monument north of Flagstaff off US 89.

Source: NPS Brochure (2013)


Establishment

Montezuma Castle National Monument — December 8, 1906


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Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards expand section

Documents

A Comparison of Small Mammal Communities at Montezuma Castle National Monument NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NAUMOCA/NRTR-96/11 (Laura E. Ellison and Charles van Riper III, October 1996)

A Past Preserved in Stone: A History of Montezuma Castle National Monument (Josh Protas, ©Western National Parks Association, 2002)

Acoustical Monitoring 2010, Montezuma Castle National Monument NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NRSS/NRTR-2013/709 (March 2013)

Acoustical Monitoring 2010 and 2012: Montezuma Castle National Monument NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/NRR-2014/872 (Amanda Rapoza, Cynthia Lee and John MacDonald, November 2014)

An Annotated Vascular Plant Species List for Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well National Monuments, Arizona Colorado Plateau Research Station Technical Report (Nancy J. Brian and Peter G. Rowlands, March 25, 1994)

Archeological Survey and Architectural Study of Montezuma Castle National Monument, 1988 Western Archeological and Conservation Center (WACC) Publications in Anthropology No. 50 (Susan J. Wells and Keith M. Anderson, 1988)

Arizona Explorer Junior Ranger (Date Unknown)

Cave and Karst Resources Summary: Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona (Limaris Soto and Dale L. Pate, December 30, 2013)

Circular Relating to Historic and Prehistoric Ruins of the Southwest and Their Preservation (Edgar L. Hewitt, 1904)

Effects and Effectiveness of Rattlesnake Relocation at Montezuma Castle National Monument Technical Report Series USGSFRESC/COPL/1999/17 (Erika M. Nowak and Charles van Riper, III, June 1999)

Erosion Assessment for Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/SODN/NRTR—2010/281 (Travis Nauman, January 2010)

Final Master Plan, Montezuma Castle/Tuzigoot National Monuments, Arizona (October 1975)

Foundation Document, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona (March 2016)

Foundation Document Overview, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona (January 2016)

General Management Plan/Environmental Assessment, Montezuma Castle National Monument/Tuzigoot National Monument, Arizona (January 2010)

General Management Plan/Environmental Assessment Summary, Montezuma Castle National Monument/Tuzigoot National Monument, Arizona (June 2011)

Geologic Resources Inventory Report, Montezuma Castle National Monument NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/GRD/NRR-2019/2022 (Katie KellerLynn, October 2019)

Historic Photograph Survey, Montezuma Castle/Well National Monument 1876-1990 NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NAUMOCA/NRTR-95/08 (Albert J. Richmond, July 1995)

Hydrogeology and Water Chemistry of Montezuma Well in Montezuma Castle National Monument and Surrounding Area, Arizona USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 97-4156 (Alice D. Konieczki and Stanley A. Leake, 1997)

Invasive Non-native Plant Inventory for Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/SODN/NRTR—2009/268 (Theresa Mau-Crimmins, Melissa Mauzy, Sarah Studd and Guy R. McPherson, November 2009)

Junior Arizona Archeologist (2016)

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona (HTML edition) NPS Historical Handbook No. 27 (Albert H. Schroeder and Homer F. Hastings, 1958)

Montezuma Castle Archeology - Part 1: Excavations (Earl Jackson, Sallie Pierce Van Valkenburgh and Katharine Bartlett, ©Southwestern Monuments Association, 1954)

Montezuma Castle Archeology - Part 2: Textiles (Kate Peck Kent, ©Southwestern Monuments Association, 1954)

Montezuma's Castle (Frank Pinkley, 1928)

Montezuma Well: The Living Desert Oasis (Vincent T. Wagner and Dean W. Blinn, 1987)

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form

Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well (Keith Anderson, Carol Coe, Jim Mayberry and Gordon Chappell, July 10, 1978)

Natural Resource Condition Assessment, Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SODN/NRR-2019/1966 (Lisa Baril, Kimberly Struthers, Andy Hubbard, Anna Mateljak, Deborah Angell, Cheryl McIntyre and Mark Brunson, August 2019)

Official Junior Ranger Activity Guide, Montezuma Castle National Monument (Date Unknown)

Park Newspaper (Echoes): 20062008Fall 2009-Winter 2010Fall 2010-Winter 20112012-2013

Report on Sullys Hill Park, Casa Grande Ruin; the Muir Woods, Petrified Forest, and Other National Monuments, Including List of Bird Reserves: 1915 (HTML edition) (Secretary of the Interior, 1914)

Report on Wind Cave National Park, Sullys Hill Park, Casa Grande Ruin, Muir Woods, Petrified Forest, and Other National Monuments, Including List of Bird Reserves: 1913 (HTML edition) (Secretary of the Interior, 1914)

Soil Survey of Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona (including Montezuma Well) Technical Report No. 66 (Bruce A. Lindsay, June 2000)

Springs, Seeps and Tinajas Monitoring Protocol: Chihuahuan and Sonoran Desert Networks NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SODN/NRR-2018/1796 (Cheryl McIntyre, Kirsten Gallo, Evan Gwilliam, J. Andrew Hubbard, Julie Christian, Kristen Bonebrake, Greg Goodrum, Megan Podolinsky, Laura Palacios, Benjamin Cooper and Mark Isley, November 2018)

Statement for management: Montezuma Castle National Monument (1995)

Status of Climate and Water Resources at Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments: Water Year 2016 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SODN/NRR-2017/1551 (Evan Gwilliam, Kara Raymond and Laura Palacios, November 2017)

Status of Climate and Water Resources at Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments: Water Year 2017 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SODN/NRR-2018/1692 (Evan L. Gwilliam, Gregory Goodrum, Kara Raymond and Laura Palacios, August 2018)

Status of Terrestrial Vegetation and Soils at Montezuma Castle National Monument, 2010-2011 NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/SODN/NRTR-2014/870 (Cheryl L. McIntyre, J. Andrew Hubbard and Sarah E. Studd, May 2014)

Streams Monitoring at Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments: Status Report for Water Years 2009–2011 NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/SODN/NRTR—2014/871 (Evan Gwilliam, Kara Raymond, Cheryl McIntyre, Stephen Buckley, Andy Hubbard and Travis Nauman, May 2014)

The Ranger Review

2009: 12, Aug. 303, Sep. 134, Sep. 27

2010: 1, Jun. 62, Jun. 203, Jul. 44, Jul. 185, Aug. 16, Aug. 157, Aug. 298, Sep. 129, Oct. 24

The Tuzigoot Survey and Three Small Verde Valley Projects: Archeological Investigations in the Middle Verde Valley, Arizona Western Archeological and Conservation Center No. 40 (Martyn D. Tagg, October 1986)



Handbooks ◆ Books expand section

Videos

Montezuma's Well and Castle - near Camp Verde and Sedona, Arizona



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Last Updated: 07-Mar-2022