American Historic Sites- Montezuma Castle

Many of us often forget that American History starts long before 1607 with the arrival of the Jamestown colony.  This is quite well covered in the book “A voyage long and strange” by Tony Horwitz which looks at the Vikings, Spanish settlements in the South West, their impact on the Pueblo peoples, the Spanish discovery trips into the interior, and various other European colonization attempts.  It’s a book worth reading and quite accessible for those of us who freely admit we’re not academic historians.  But perhaps more importantly to American history are the numerous Native groups that were living here long before the arrival of the Spanish.  One of my favorite sites in the American South West is Montezuma Castle outside Camp Verde Arizona.  It is a cliff side dwelling much like Mesa Verde, or Walnut Canyon and is easily accessed from the interstate, so if you’re traveling from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon take the time to stop off and visit.  Despite the name this site has nothing to do with the Aztec or Montezuma himself.  You see back in the 19th century, Americans generally could not conceive the Natives they were familiar with as being capable of building major architectural sites.  This was of course nonsense that should have been obvious to anyone traveling in the South West given that many other sites were still occupied and being built on, but for whatever reason 19th century Americans believed that sites like this just HAD to be Aztec.

The main structure at Montezuma Castle. The "Castle" was built by the Sinaqua people, and had no relation to Montezuma or the Aztec. Initially built around 700 AD this site at one time supported a population of around 50 people, who extensively farmed in the flats between the cliff wall and river. The Sinagua people abandoned this site in the early 1400s. First found by Anglo Americans in the mid 1800s it became a part of the National Park Service in 1906.

The main structure at Montezuma Castle. The “Castle” was built by the Sinaqua people, and had no relation to Montezuma or the Aztec. Initially built around 700 AD this site at one time supported a population of around 50 people, who extensively farmed in the flats between the cliff wall and river. The Sinagua people abandoned this site in the early 1400s. First found by Anglo Americans in the mid 1800s it became a part of the National Park Service in 1906.

This photo and many other photos from the South West can be seen here:  http://joshua-house.artistwebsites.com/art/all/the+american+west/all

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