Inside Montezuma Castle

July 14, 2016 Posted by: Collin Beckham
Today I was lucky enough to have been able to enter Montezuma Castle with a few members of the natural resource crew, two archaeologists, and the Hopi masons. The natural resource crew and I were tasked with collecting bat guano for the purpose of determining bat species' while the Hopi Masons were tasked with doing some repairs on the roof of one of the buildings and the archaeologists were checking the dwelling for signs of change that could lead to instability. At the base of the dwelling we got a briefing from archaeologist Matt Guebard and biologist Tina Greenawalt and then suited up in harnesses and helmets. Matt and Lucas put up three sets of ladders to the dwelling. After the ladders were up, we each took turns strapping in a safety line to our harnesses and climbing up. 

Once everyone reached the dwelling safely, the Hopi Masons began their work on repairs while Matt gave Tina, Hannah, Richard, and I a tour of the dwelling. The dwelling is very dark so we each wore headlamps. It was like walking through a slice of history;about 95% of the dwelling is original. The ceilings amaze me because they consist of original plant material from the creek. The older, original wood is distinguished by a dark purple color. The Sinagua mainly used Sycamore trees for support but there are a few other trees, including a Ponderosa Pine, which had to be extremely difficult to get as it would have to be dragged from somewhere very far away. There is a spot in the ceiling where a net has been stuffed, and Matt said that it is very rare to find nets from Native American cultures of the Southwest. There is a small sealed box in the floor that Matt said was used by the Park Service to show the mummified remains of a baby to visitors;the baby is gone and has thankfully been buried somewhere. 

The dwelling is much larger on the inside than I expected;Hannah and I actually got lost for a bit and had to ask the Hopi masons for directions. There are multiple ladders inside that lead to different levels and rooms. I really enjoyed being able to see the hand marks on a wall from the builders. Matt said that the wall with hand marks is an unfinished wall, the rest of the walls would also have hand marks if they didn't get the finishing layer. I was surprised to see areas in the wall where Sinagua made drawings. Matt said that these drawings were merely doodles from people who were bored, waiting for the wall to dry, which re-instilled the fact that these people were not much different from me.  

Being at the top level of the dwelling and looking at the entire valley was my favorite part;the view is outstanding. This was our last stop before the work began. After checking out the view we prepared our gear and designated people to specific tasks related to the collection of bat guano. I just watched on the first sample collection, but on the second I was the poop scooper and on the third I was the tube holder. The hard part of the job was collecting fresh guano and avoiding the dirt. We eventually met our quota of two half full tubes of guano and the job was done! It was really cool to be able to see bats flying around;they got super close to my face many times as they spastically flapped through the rooms of the dwelling. I had a once in a lifetime experience that I will always remember inside Montezuma Castle!

Collage of photographs from inside Montezuma Castle, including dark rooms with light coming through doorways, and shots of rangers collecting bat guano.

internship, Montezuma Castle, resources, cultural, natural, bats, history, conservation

4 Comments Comments icon

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  3. Oz
    August 15, 2016 at 08:53

    Very cool opportunity.

  4. July 23, 2016 at 02:44

    What a rare and exciting privilege!

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Last updated: July 14, 2016

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