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Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle Rd, Camp Verde, AZ, USA
| +1 928-567-3322
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Neither Fort Nor Aztec Camp Verde Arizona United States

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Neither Fort Nor Aztec

As Anglo settlers arrived in the 19th century, several sites throughout the Southwest desert were named, erroneously, for the Aztec emperor Montezuma (Moctezuma). The most famous one—and the one to keep this name officially—is Montezuma Castle National Monument between Phoenix and Flagstaff, easily accessible off I-17.

Archaeologists have labeled the pre-Columbian culture that built these cliff dwellings the "Sinagua People," and some modern Hopi claim these ancients as their ancestors. This particular complex was built in the 1100s and inhabited until the early 1400s. Macaws and ballgame courts have been found at some sites, and evidence shows that trade networks linked this North American civilization to the larger civilizations in Mesoamerica.

If you're heading up to the Grand Canyon from southern Arizona, this ancient site in the Verde River Valley is definitely worth a quick visit. If you have time to linger, these cliff dwellings are a compelling place to contemplate what it means to live in the desert, as well as the cycles that civilization in North America has gone through.