Location: Camp Verde, Arizona
Video Link: Coming Soon.
Montezuma Castle National Monument protects a set of well-preserved dwellings located in Camp Verde, Arizona which were built and used by the Sinagua people, a pre-Columbian culture closely related to the Hohokam and other indigenous peoples of the southwestern United States, between approximately 1100 and 1425 AD. The main structure comprises five stories and twenty rooms, and was built over the course of three centuries.
Neither part of the monument’s name is correct. When European-Americans first observed the ruins in the 1860s, by then long-abandoned, they named them for the famous Aztec emperor Montezuma in the mistaken belief that he had been connected to their construction (see also Montezuma mythology). In fact, the dwelling was abandoned more than 40 years before Montezuma was born, and was not a “castle” in the traditional sense, but instead functioned more like a “prehistoric high rise apartment complex”, as many families lived there.
This cliff dwelling is remarkably intact for a structure nearly a thousand years old, and naming the site for Montezuma reveals an error in the early archeology of the site: It wasn’t built by Aztecs, but by the indigenous Sinagua, the pre-Columbian people who lived in the Verde Valley of central Arizona.
Like an early apartment building, the structure is comprised of five stories and 20 rooms, built in a natural cave in the nearly vertical limestone cliff face. Rising 90 feet from the valley floor, it could only be accessed by ladders, which, when pulled away, provided safety for the tribe from any intruder—man or beast—with unsavory motives.
Unfortunately we were not allowed to film video there as it is a national park.