Montezuma Castle National Monument, located near Camp Verde
, in the Southwestern United States
, features well-preserved cliff-dwellings. They were built and used by the Pre-Columbian Sinagua people, northern cousins of the Hohokam,around 700 CE. It was occupied from approximately 1125-1400 CE, and occupation peaked around 1300 CE.
The monument is not at all a castle, but remains to be named "Montezuma Castle", despite it having nothing to do with Aztec Empire nor being named after any Montezuma emperors, such as Montezuma spelled more properly "Moctezuma". Many sites in North America
are misnamed such as this site, because their discoverers were more interested in the discovery than information or understanding.
Montezuma Castle is near the top of a Verde Valley cliff and is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America. The area was briefly abandoned due to volcanic ash from the Sunset Crater
Volcano. It is likely that the sediment from that aided in agricultural endeavors when the Sinagua arrived.
This is an easy monument to visit, a short distance off Interstate 17
, exit 287. There is a paved trail a 1/4 mile from the visitor center along the base of the cliff containing the ruins. Access to the ruins has not been allowed since 1950 due to extensive damage of the dwelling. About 350,000 tourists visit the site each year.
The visitor center includes a museum about the Sinagua and the tools they used to build the dwellings. The Montezuma Castle site houses many artifacts, such as stone tools, metates used for grinding corn, bone needles and ornaments of shell and gemstone which prove that the Sinagua were fine artisans. All of these relics are on display at the Montezuma Visitors Center.There is also a gift shop.