Posts Tagged ‘Sinagua Indians’

This may not be what you imagined when I mentioned “castle” in my title. This is a old new world castle, a cliff dwelling built by the Sinagua (without water) people and inhabited from the early 1100s to around 1425. Although it’s called Montezuma Castle, Montezuma was never here. The park isn’t large, but it is lovely and because of the trees, fairly shady, something always appreciated here.

Montezuma Castle was a cliff dwelling housing about 50 people. Residents of the apartment-style structure used long ladders to reach their high-rise homes. ~National Geographic

Until 1951, visitors to Montezuma Castle National Monument also used ladders to access the cliff dwelling. However, thousands of tourists trekking through the site began to wear down the delicate adobe structure. Ladders were removed and visitors can no longer directly access the castle. ~National Geographic

We’re at a higher elevation here than in the Phoenix area and you can tell that we’re also near water because of the trees and vegetation. The park is small but it’s a lovely walk even in the heat. Because it’s a national park, I was looking forward to using my Senior Pass to get us in for free, but because of COVID, there was no entrance fee. Nice of the park system!


Quite a few people these days live or work in highrises, but the original highrise dwellers lived in cliffs. We visited one such cliff dwelling near Sedona, Arizona. Dubbed Montezuma Castle by the early American settlers in the area who erroneously assumed Aztec origin, this small cliff dwelling (about 35 people) and the area around it were populated sometime between 1100 and 1400 BC by the Southern Sinagua. Well-protected from the elements, it’s one of the best-preserved prehistoric structures in the Southwest.

The Sinagua were farmers and hunter-gatherers who built a riverside, five-story, apartment-style building with about 45 rooms. Ladders allowed access and could be pulled up at night or if danger threatened, although this was a peaceful time and area. The river provided water for farming on the fertile land and there were other Indians in the neighborhood. Game provided meat and the Indians mined a nearby salt deposit. Salt was likely used for trade.