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Title: Montezuma Castle National Monument (1959)
Author: United States. National Park Service
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Montezuma Castle National Monument (1959)" ***

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    [Illustration: Cover: _The Castle_]

                            Montezuma Castle
                      NATIONAL MONUMENT • ARIZONA

  _High in a cliff cavity stands Montezuma Castle, a prehistoric Indian
  dwelling so perfectly preserved that ceiling timbers in many of the
  rooms are still intact_

Montezuma Castle National Monument, in the Verde Valley of central
Arizona, protects one of the best preserved and most interesting cliff
dwellings in the United States. Within the monument, occupying part of a
limestone cliff which borders Beaver Creek for half a mile, are the
ruins of several prehistoric Indian house clusters. Among them is the
large structure called Montezuma Castle, which is about 90 percent
intact and original.

_The Environment_

The Verde Valley of central Arizona is bordered on the north and east by
the great plateau of northeastern Arizona and on the southwest by the
Black Hills. Through the level floor of the valley winds the Verde
River, fed by Beaver Creek and several other tributaries.

Several million years ago the mouth of this valley was dammed by a lava
flow from Arizona’s volcanic Black Hills. The impounded waters formed a
lake 35 miles long and 18 miles wide. In it, streams feeding the lake
deposited enormous quantities of limy mud. Perhaps by 2 million years
ago, the overflow from the imprisoned waters had worn down the lava dam
so that eventually the lake was drained. Subsequently, the Verde River
and its tributaries cut channels through the now dry and hardened lime
deposits of the old lake bed. Since then, much of the limestone
bordering these streams has been eroded away, thus broadening their

_The Early Inhabitants_

Scant archeological evidence so far available indicates human beings
were living in the Verde Valley over a thousand years ago.

These were industrious, sedentary Indians from southern Arizona who
settled on the fertile river terraces and began farming. They lived a
distinctly rural life, with no cities or large centers of population, in
little villages of one-room, pole-and-brush houses.

These farm folk probably lived in comparative peace in the valley until
about the beginning of the 12th century. After 1100, another group of
farm Indians entered the valley from the north. These people constructed
communal dwellings, or pueblos, which after A. D. 1250 were converted
into large compact defensible structures.

_Beginnings of Montezuma Castle_

The majority of these Indians concentrated into larger settlements for
protection. They built their pueblos on the hilltops near their fields,
for here were the most convenient sites. Tuzigoot National Monument, 2
miles east of Clarkdale, Ariz., provides an excellent example of these
hilltop locations. Occasionally, a suitable location was found in a

It can be imagined with what enthusiasm a band of the farmers might have
first noticed, on the north bank of Beaver Creek, only 4 miles from the
Verde River, a great cavern-pitted limestone cliff, well over 100 feet
high. This was an ideal spot for a dwelling site, with good farmland
nearby on the creek terrace. Here they began building rooms to
accommodate their needs. We find that in a quarter-mile strip of cliff
there were two distinct apartment houses. Growth during several
generations made one of these villages a 5-story structure with 45
rooms. A hundred yards east was a 5-story structure with 20 rooms, which
was destined, centuries later, to be inaccurately called Montezuma

    [Illustration: _Montezuma Castle rises above the model which
    explains its history_]

_The Classic Period_

These dwellings were occupied until about A. D. 1400. As many as 200
persons may well have lived in the several house clusters. The castle
could have accommodated 12 or 15 families (possibly 50 people). These
cliff dwellers lived through the peak period of Pueblo culture,
producing stone implements, excellent turquoise and shell jewelry,
cotton cloth (some of it elaborately decorated), sturdily constructed
baskets, and many other objects.

The pottery made locally, at Montezuma Castle and in the Verde Valley
generally, consisted mainly of plain brown or red ware. The prehistoric
people of the Verde, although apparently highly talented along certain
other lines, seem never to have developed a really ornamental painted
pottery of their own. Instead, they acquired decorated pottery from the
north by trade with the Flagstaff area and the Hopi country.


There seem to have been several reasons for the abandonment of Montezuma
Castle and other pueblos in nearby areas. Those in the Flagstaff area,
about 50 miles to the north, underwent depopulation sometime in the
1200’s, possibly as a result of a century of recurring droughts. There
was continuous drought for 23 years, from 1276-99. It is thought that
many of these people moved southward into the Verde Valley which during
this period showed an increase in population.

During this same period, the dry farmers on the desert flats of the
Verde Valley moved to the banks of the spring-fed streams. Here
irrigation was practiced by others in the small acreage available along
the streams. This combination of small farming acreage and a
concentration of population may have led to interpueblo strife; and this
in turn contributed to a gradual exodus from the Verde Valley. By the
late 1300’s the pueblos in the Verde Valley were overpopulated for the
available farmland and food supply. Montezuma Castle was probably
abandoned during the first part of the 1400’s, since no trade pottery
dating after that time has been found.

A number of the cliff dwellers must have gone into northern Arizona to
join the friendly Hopi, with whom they had long established trade
relations. Modern Hopi traditions still indicate some ancestral origins
in the Verde Valley.

_Montezuma Well_

Another example of prehistoric Indian work can be seen at Montezuma
Well, a detached part of Montezuma Castle National Monument, 7 miles by
road northeast of the Castle. This area contains a large limestone sink,
half filled with water which continually flows out at the rate of
1,500,000 gallons a day. The Indians, who constructed their small cliff
dwellings and pueblos around this well, diverted the water into
irrigation ditches which carried it to their farmlands below. These
ditches are visible today because they were cemented up by the lime
content of the water which flowed through them. The story of the Indians
at Montezuma Well is similar to that at Montezuma Castle.

_How To Reach the Monument_

Montezuma Castle is 5 miles north of Camp Verde, 60 miles south of
Flagstaff, and 65 miles east of Prescott. It may be reached by U. S. 89
Alternate from Flagstaff via Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona, or by the same
highway from Prescott through Jerome, Clarkdale, and Cottonwood, then on
a State road through Cornville. It may also be reached by State Routes
69 and 79 from Phoenix, 95 miles to the south.

Another approach from the south is the graveled road from Roosevelt Dam,
via Payson, Pine, and Camp Verde.

_About Your Visit_

You will find small museums at both Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well,
to help you understand the area and its history. The monument is open
daily from 8 a. m. to 5 p. m. There are very limited picnic facilities
in both sections.

The nominal admission fee is waived for children under 12 years of age.

    [Illustration: _Cliff Dwelling at Montezuma Well_]

_Mission 66_

Mission 66 is a program designed to be completed by 1966 which will
assure the maximum protection of the scenic, scientific, wilderness, and
historic resources of the National Park System in such ways and by such
means as will make them available for the use and enjoyment of present
and future generations.


Montezuma Castle National Monument is administered by the National Park
Service of the U. S. Department of the Interior. It was established by
Presidential proclamation in 1906 and contains 783 acres in 2 sections.
A superintendent, whose address is Camp Verde, Ariz., is in immediate


                             UNITED STATES
                       DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
                      Fred A. Seaton, _Secretary_

                         NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
                      Conrad L. Wirth, _Director_

  The National Park System, of which this area is a unit, is dedicated
  to conserving the scenic, scientific, and historic heritage of the
  United States for the benefit and inspiration of its people.

    [Illustration: Metate]


  Verde River
    Oak Creek
    Beaver Creek
  Black Canyon Highway
    Alt. 89
    Temp. 79
    Chapel of the Holy Cross
    Bell Rock
    Oak Creek
    Page Springs
    Camp Verde
    _To Flagstaff 45 Miles_
    _To Flagstaff 46 Miles_
    _To Mormon Lake 20 Miles_
    _To Payson 38 Miles_
    _To Phoenix 86 Miles_
    _To Cottonwood 6 Miles, Clarkdale 12 Miles_
    _To Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Tuzigoot National Monument, Jerome and

Revised 1960
                          U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1959—O 523612

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—This eBook is based on a U.S. government publication which is public
  domain in the United States.

—Corrected a few palpable typos.

—Within the map, transcribed labels, and added italicized text where
  needed to define the context.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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