For its time and place, there was no other pueblo like Wupatki. Less than 800 years ago, it was the tallest, largest, and perhaps the richest and most influential pueblo around. It was home to 85-100 people, and several thousand more lived within a day’s walk. And it was built in one of the lowest, warmest, and driest places on the Colorado Plateau. What compelled people to build here?
Human history here spans at least 10,000 years. But only for a time, in the 1100s, was the landscape this densely populated. The eruption of nearby Sunset Crater Volcano a century earlier probably played a part. Families that lost their homes to ash and lava had to move. They discovered that the cinders blanketing lands to the north could hold moisture needed for crops.
As the new agricultural community spread, small scattered homes were replaced by a few large pueblos, each surrounded by many smaller pueblos and pithouses. Wupatki, Wukoki, Lomaki, and other masonry pueblos emerged from bedrock. Trade networks expanded, bringing exotic items like turquoise, shell jewelry, copper bells, and parrots. Wupatki flourished as a meeting place of different cultures. Then, by about 1250, the people moved on.
The people of Wupatki came here from another place. From Wupatki, they sought out another home. Though no longer occupied, Wupatki is remembered and cared for, not abandoned.
Did You Know?
In the 1100s, Wupatki residents harvested rainwater to supplement springs and seeps that dot the arid landscape. Today, drinking water comes from wells drilled 900 feet deep.