Montezuma's Castle
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Frank Pinkley

Through the northern wall a doorway leads down into F-2-4, a cave room which we call the "mill room." This is a low room, back in the cliff under B-1-7 and was made by simply walling up the front of a cave. In early days this room may have been inhabited before the front section was added, and, opening as it then did, directly out on the ledge in front, it had plenty of light and air. After F-2-3 was built in front of it, it was rather dark but was, presumably inhabited up to the time of abandonment.

The floor of this room was torn up by vandals many years ago but in cleaning up there in 1923 we found a baby burial which had been made in the ancient times. The child was probably not over a couple of months old and had been buried in its little dress of woven cotton cloth which still displays the care and patience of a loving mother who spent so many hours over its making so many centuries ago.

At the west end of this room is a rock ledge about two feet high. On this ledge we found a little fence or ring of clay about 18 inches in diameter. Near its center is a depression leading into a crack which comes down on the left to the front of the ledge. On the floor of the cave at the foot of this ledge we found, in the debris, a couple of inches of matted grass heads. It is our opinion that this was a place for beating or threshing out the seed from some species of grass and the waste material had gradually accumulated on the floor at the foot of the ledge where we found it.

Underneath the right end of this ledge is a cyst reaching back into the cliff and down beneath the level of the floor. It was probably used for storage.

The left of the above picture is the top and shows a typical "T" door.

Near the center of the back side of the mill room, a small doorway leads back into another small cave which is F-2-5. The wall between the two caves is well built and shows many finger prints. The doorway has a single stick for a header. It is rather surprising that they put in any header at all as it bears practically no weight and if the header had been left out the doorway would have been higher and made the room easier of access. The floor in F-2-5 is about two feet higher than that in F-2-4. The ceiling is on the same level in the two rooms so there is only room to sit upright in F-2-5. There is some indication that this cave has been enlarged with stone tools and the cliff at this point is soft enough to lend itself to such treatment.

Following around the wall in F-2-4 from the doorway of F-2-5 one can see three or four pockets which show some signs of tool marks. They were probably small storage places. In this eastern portion of the room an open seam in the cliff has been walled up, but the vandal has torn out the blocking and left only traces of the wall.

Coming out of F-2-4 and going east through F-2-3 by a T shaped doorway which we restored in 1923, the visitor enters F-2-2. This is a long, rectangular room running east and west and considerably wider at the east than at the west end. Two beams cross the room from north to south and the rafters lie on them in three panels from east to west.

The west beam and the roof from it to the west wall are original. The east beam we replaced in 1924 and the eastern two thirds of the roof we replaced in 1925. This roof was restored partly as a matter of protection to the walls and floors which were open to driving rains from the south, and partly to give the visitor the idea of what the room looked like when it was inhabited. The casual visitor could not get an adequate idea of this part of the building without this restoration. The west beam was cracked and we put a sycamore prop under it in 1924.

The north wall of the room is a veneer wall built against the cliff which is back of this side of the room, and this wall still shows the smoke of ancient fires. Near the center of this wall and about three feet from the floor is a shallow hole some two inches in diameter and 1-1/2 inches deep. It is plastered inside and never held a peg. We do not know its use. In the floor below this hole and about a foot from the wall, we found what appeared to be a fire place. It was nine or ten inches square, walled with stones set on edge and was filled with ashes. When we had taken out the ashes, we found, at the bottom of the pit, the dried bodies of what appear to be two rats. How they came there unless they were placed there by the ancient people, we cannot imagine. The doorway at the east end of the room, as well as half the wall at that end from floor to ceiling is our restoration work done in 1925.

The south wall of the room contains the only arrangement for lighting which consists of a hole about ten inches square through the wall at the floor level. The room appears dark when the visitor first enters but after a minute or two the eyes adjust themselves and there is light enough for all purposes.

Just to the south of the east doorway and a foot from the wall is a hatchway through which a ladder leads down into room F-1-2.

Room F-1-2 is a narrow room only about half the width of F-2-2 above it, the reason being that the cliff projects this far out forming half the floor of F-2-2 and the north wall of F-1-2. The east and south walls of the room form the foundation of the walls of the room above, the north wall being a veneer on the cliff. The room does not extend to the west as far as the room above due to the projection of the cliff. This projection was once faced up with a wall, traces of which can still be seen, but it was torn away by vandals years ago in their pot-hunting search. The roof is composed of short rafters running from north to south crossed with willow wands on top of which is the mud floor of the room above. We had to restore one rafter and the east end of the floor in 1925. The room has no method of lighting other than the hatchway which opens into the semi-darkened room above and it must have been very dark, yet the walls and roof are smoke blackened and we assume it to have been a living room.

At the northeast corner of F-1-2 an irregular cave opens back several feet into the cliff and from the fact that traces of a wall exist at its mouth separating it from the room, we have numbered it F-1-3. It was probably used as a storage room for those who lived in F-1-2.

Coming up out of F-1-2 into F-2-2 and turning east through our restored doorway, one enters F-2-1. This with the rooms below and above form an addition to the front section as is shown by the bonding of the walls. The room was nearly square and was roofed by a beam north and south covered by rafters east and west. Small sticks about an inch in diameter were placed north and south on top of the rafters and reed stems were laid east and west on them. One inch sticks were then placed above the under one and bound through the reeds with yucca strings. On top of this was what appeared to be corn leaves and then comes the mud. We had to restore nine or ten rafters and about half of the ceiling in 1925, and to carry the additional weight had to put a prop under the beam.

A doorway at the north end of the east wall leads out on the ledge at the foot of the fourth ladder. Just south of the doorway is a square look-out hole which covers the point where our present ledge trail comes around the cliff from the east. We consider this good evidence that the old people had a ledge trail there when they occupied the building.

The floor in this room, as in F-2-2, is made up in the north half by the ledge and in the south half is a ceiling over a small room, F-1-1. A hatchway in the southwest corner leads down into the room beneath.

F-1-1 is so low that one cannot stand upright in it and so narrow one can hardly turn around, yet it has one of the most carefully laid ceilings in the building. The short rafters cross from north to south and the willow wands run east and west above them. The willows seem to have been chosen all the same size and are beautifully laid. The walls show some smoke and yet the room is so small and dark that one can hardly imagine people having lived in it.

Having found our way down through the front section of F-1-1 we must return through the F-2 series and the B-1 series to the foot of the ladder in B-1-2 where we climb up into B-2-1.

This room lacks some four feet of reaching as far east as the one below it and, due to the overhanging of the cliff, is only about half as wide as B-1-3 which is under it. The back wall is the untouched cliff, now much smoke blackened. The room is triangular in plan, the door in the east being the point of the triangle, and occupying what would be the east wall. The room was built after the main part of the back structure as is shown by the non-bonding of the south wall at the southwest corner. There is a three inch off set where this south wall starts at the floor line from the wall below.

The west wall has a doorway nearly three feet above the floor leading into the room to the west.

Many hand prints and much smoke are on the south and west walls. The ceiling is about ten feet high and is composed of rafters laid north and south bearing willows laid east and west. On the willows reeds are laid north and south and then the mud was put on.

Upon climbing up into the doorway to the west and entering B-2-2 it is seen that the floor in B-2-2 is three feet higher than that in B-2-1.

The doorway has a single stone slab for a threshold and has not the T shape which commonly occurs. The Jambs on both sides show many finger prints.

This cut is inadvertantly reversed but gives a good view of the balcony.

B-2-2 is a long, rectangular room with doorways in the east and west ends and the south side.

The ceiling is composed of two beams crossing from north to south with rafters crossing from east to west. Next come the willows from north to south crossed from east to west by reeds with mud on top. In this ceiling, near the center of the north side of the room, is an old hatchway which was abandoned and closed while the building was yet occupied. It is closed by sticks about 1-1/2 inches in diameter laid from east to west across the hole with mud and dirt on top.

A fire must, at some time, have burned down through the floor above, burning completely through one rafter, charring another badly and burning nearly half through the east beam before it was extinguished.

Some one dug a hole about three feet in diameter through the north wall of this room a few years ago and let a couple of wagon loads of dirt out which had been back filled to make a floor for one of the balcony rooms above. We repaired the place in 1922 and this explains the whitish patch at that point in the wall.

The north wall was built for about a third of its distance on some poles, thus bridging across a place where the ledge failed to come out far enough to carry the wall and where they did not wish to carry the weight on the floor because the floor itself had to be carried on two props in the room below.

At several places on the walls of this room one can count three layers of plaster.

About one third of the way across the room from the east door there is a raised ridge of clay six inches wide and an inch high, crossing from north to south. The floor to the east of this ridge is a little lower than to the west.

A doorway about midway of the south wall leads out on the roof of F-3-1. F-3-1 was the only room in the third story of the front section and this roof, surrounded by a parapet, traces of which may still be seen, formed an outdoor space for the people in B-2-2 after it was built.

A doorway to the right of the center of the west wall leads from B-2-2 into B-2-3, the floor of which is some two feet lower.

B-2-3 is a triangular room, made so by the closing in of the cliff wall at the back toward the west end. The ceiling has rafters from north to south, crossed with willows from east to west. Reeds were laid on the willows and mud completed the roof. The willows were laid in a pleasing fan-shaped manner to fill the triangular roof space.

The east and south walls show much smoke and many finger prints. The west wall in this room is very short, closing the front wall to the cliff at the triangular end of the room, but it caused us a great deal of trouble in 1923 when we had to jack it up and replace the header and both sides of the doorway which opens out there on the ledge to the west.

The overhang of the cliff comes into the upper west half of the north wall of the room and on this overhang or projection of the cliff a veneer wall has been attached which carried the north ends of the rafters. Below the overhang of the cliff a couple of pockets were walled up in the northeast and northwest corners of the room, but only traces of them remain.

This room with the one below it are additions to the original building as is shown in the bonding of the walls.

The present ladder leads up through a hatchway in the west end of the ceiling to the balcony above. We are inclined to think that the hatchway was changed from B-2-2, where an abandoned one was noted, to this point when this addition to the house was made.

The balcony floor contains the balcony two rooms, B-3-1 and B-3-2, and the plaza. These are hidden behind the parapet which is an upward projection of the front wall of the back section of the building, coming some four feet above the balcony floor. The parapet is pierced by three openings near the floor in the western section and one very near the top in the eastern end. The western holes cover; 1, a point in front of the Castle at the foot of the slope; 2, a point to the east of the Castle at the head of the talus, and 3, a space from in front at the foot of the slope around to the east on the ledge trail. At the east end of the parapet is raised nearly a foot higher and in this raised portion is an upward-pointing look-out hole which covers a point on the top of the cliff from where an enemy might send an arrow down into the balcony from above.

Room B-3-1 is an addition as is shown by the bonding of its wall to B-3-2, and was probably built at the same time as B-2-1, which is below and in front of it. It is roofed by the overhanging cliff and has the cliff for its east and back walls. Its west wall was already standing as the east wall of B-3-2, so all the cost in labor of building this room was the erection of the front wall with its doorway. This doorway was entirely torn away years ago by vandals and we restored it in the work of 1925.

Room B-3-2. is one of the largest in the building. It is roofed by the overhanging cliff and has the cliff for its back wall. It is entered by a doorway which we restored in 1923. This doorway had undergone reconstruction in ancient days for we replaced our headers in older sockets and another header and the outline of the sides of an older doorway can be seen a foot above our replacement.

The front half of the floor in this room has been broken up by vandals. In the remaining rear half one can see to his left as he enters one of the raised mud ridges running from north to south, dividing the western third from the remainder of the floor. In the northeast portion of the room is the remains of a wall which probably formed a storage bin. Several other natural pockets in the cliff at the of the room may be supposed to have been put to a like purpose.

The "plaza" is our name for a platform or floor of mud which filled that portion of the balcony to the west of B-3-2. It seems never to have been walled in, yet a great deal of material was carried up from below to construct it. No good reason has yet been assigned for its use.

Room F-3-1 remains to be described. It was the only room on the third story of the front section and is entered from B-2-2 in the back section. The west wall was rebuilt in 1925 and the west doorway was put in on the assumption that a doorway would have been in the original wall so that people living in F-3-1 could have used the roof of F-2-2 and F-2-3 for their outdoor plaza. A window occurs in the south wall of the room from which a fine view can be had over the country to the south.

One of the most surprising things in the ruin is the great "T" shaped doorway in the east wall of F-3-1. There is some logic about a small doorway in a cliff dwelling and there is logic for a T shaped doorway, but none of this logic will hold good, nor will any other, on a large T shaped doorway. Yet here we have one eight feet high and four and a half feet wide. Logic or no logic, there it is and we have no explanation to offer. The north side of this door way was cracked so badly that we had to prop up the lintel with its overburden and take the wall down and rebuild it in 1925. We also at the same time put in the roof beams to stiffen up its walls and bind them together.

(click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

After a detailed examination of the Castle such as we have just finished, one is able to appreciate it much better when he gets back down to the foot of the slope and looks up at it. He will not then think of it as a complete unit, built all at one time, but will study it to see how it must have looked in its separate stages of construction.

We may look upon rooms B-1-1, B-1-2, B-1-3, B-1-4, B-2-2 and B-3-2 as the core of the building, with F-2-4, F-2-5, B-1-7 and possibly F-1-3 inhabited at this earlier period. B-2-1, B-3-1 constitute one addition and B-1-5, B-1-6 and B-2-3 another, but we cannot say which came first.

After these came F-1-2, F-2-2, and F-2-3. Later came F-1-1 and F-2-1 and last of all came F-3-1.

The complete structure has some symmetry with the three story tower of the front section standing near the center of the cave, and the wings of the back section running about equally distant to the right and left of it, but we must look on this as a matter of accident and not the result of a general plan or the scheme of any single builder.

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Last Updated: 16-Apr-2007