Montezuma Castle
National Monument
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Set within a limestone cliff overlooking Beaver Creek in Arizona's Verde Valley (figure 1), the prehistoric ruin known as Montezuma Castle has stood for hundreds of years, a witness to great changes in the surrounding cultural and natural landscapes. The Castle, which the Sinagua people built and occupied from as early as a.d. 1200 until their mysterious departure from the Verde Valley more than two hundred years later, now serves as a reminder of the prehistoric cultures that once flourished in the region. Archeological evidence suggests a sequence of settlement by the Hohokam, Hakataya, and Sinagua peoples in the lush valleys and hills along the Verde River beginning around a.d. 900. Though these groups prospered, developing sophisticated cultures as well as agricultural and trade-based economies, they abandoned the Verde Valley entirely by a.d. 1425.

Figure 1. Site location map. From Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments Master Plan, 1975, Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments administrative office.

Many years passed before visitors to the region reported their discovery of the remains of these vanished cultures. During the periods of exploration and settlement of the Verde Valley, Spanish explorers, fur trappers, surveyors, military officers, settlers, and tourists noted the impressive prehistoric structures and speculated on their origins, but the growing interest in and visitation to these "ruins" over time threatened their preservation. [1] Various individuals and groups became concerned about the destruction of these unique and fragile resources, and responded with efforts to repair and protect them. Continued discussions at the local and national levels about the preservation of antiquities resulted in the establishment of Montezuma Castle National Monument on 8 December 1906 and later in the National Park Service (NPS) administration of the site.

This study examines in detail the perception and management of Montezuma Castle since the first historical account of visitation to the Verde Valley by Spanish explorers in 1583. It documents the changes in the condition of the ruins over time and explores the historical contexts in which these changes took place. As southwestern archeological sites began to receive increasing attention from various groups beginning in the late nineteenth century, Montezuma Castle experienced both threats to its stability and efforts to ensure its preservation. This history considers the attitudes, values, and ideas that informed these behaviors and the impact they had on the prehistoric ruins of the Verde Valley.

The primary focus of this study centers on the administration of Montezuma Castle National Monument. It begins with the history of the site before its incorporation into the NPS system and continues with an overview of the improvements and developments at the monument leading up to the start of World War II. Chapter 1 includes a discussion of the first historical contacts with Montezuma Castle and examines the impact on the ruins from the European American settlement of the Verde Valley. Chapter 2 looks at the increasing attention paid to archeological sites in the late nineteenth century and at the consequences of that attention. The time immediately following the establishment of Montezuma Castle National Monument is the subject of chapter 3. This period includes the nominal administration of the Castle by the General Land Office, the formation of the National Park Service and its management of the national monuments, and concerned citizens, and officials' efforts to increase the preservation activities at the Castle. Chapter 4 details the changes in the NPS administration of Montezuma Castle under the custodianships of Martin Jackson and Earl Jackson. During this time, the Castle received full-time care and protection, more substantial preservation activities, and significant developments to its programs and facilities.

In the postwar years, Arizona and the greater Southwest experienced a period of rapid alteration as a result of the influx of residents, the emergence of new industries, and the growth of tourism. These changes had a tremendous impact on Montezuma Castle National Monument and the surrounding Verde Valley. Chapters 5 through 7 focus on administrative activities at the monument in the last half of the twentieth century that have responded to these changes and have charted the course for the future of the monument. Chapter 5 documents the growing visitation to the monument and NPS plans, improvements, and developments designed to address the changing needs of the site. Consideration of the management of monument natural resources within the context of the emerging environmental movement, new federal legislative requirements, and changing NPS policies are the subjects of chapter 6. The study concludes with chapter 7, which explores the cultural resource management activities at the monument that have been influenced by advances in the field of archeology, the implementation of a host of federal regulations pertaining to prehistoric and historic resources, and the dramatic changes to the cultural landscape of the Verde Valley. In essence, this history of the administration of Montezuma Castle covers its transformation from a neglected prehistoric ruin to a developed and frequently visited national monument.


1. The term ruins is used to refer to the Montezuma Castle cliff dwelling and to the other prehistoric structures in the region. Visitors and local residents often used this term to describe the abandoned and frequently decomposed structures built by the prehistoric settlers of the Verde Valley.


A Past Preserved in Stone:
A History of Montezuma Castle National Monument

©2002, Western National Parks Association
protas/intro.htm — 27-Nov-2002