Travel Tips & Adventures

Real People. Real Travel.

Travel to Wupatki National Monument: Pueblos of the Past

Passing Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument (see last week – August 17), travel through a landscape of scrub brush and lava rock and you reach Wupatki National Monument.

Wupatki Pueblo - part of the 100-room ancient community

Wupatki Pueblo - part of the 100-room ancient community

Wupatki’s 100-room pueblo, built of intricate stone and clay mortar, housed a resourceful and hard-working Native American population who lived in Northern Arizona over 800 years ago. They farmed, created pottery, and lived in large communities. Water was a scarce commodity and they conserved it carefully.

Reminiscent of southwestern condos, the pueblos are surprisingly modern looking. Restoration of the remnants of buildings was only begun in the 1990s, but you can see how the original inhabitants oriented the buildings to take advantage of the sun and shade in an unforgiving climate. There is evidence of drainage systems and ways to trap water.

Pottery recovered from Wupatki Pueblo

Pottery recovered from Wupatki Pueblo

Visitor Center displays of great interest

At the visitor center, the displays show a complex Puebloan life with pottery and farming finds. There is a ballcourt, which indicates a place where people from far-away lands would trade. One thought-provoking interactive display lets visitors decide how and when they would plant their crops. Beware of overworking a field so the soil’s resources are depleted or becoming complacent after a large crop!

The ball court where ceremonies and trading were held

The ball court where ceremonies and trading were held

Tucked in the visitor center, one display tells a sad tale. One family’s history is traced. The shameful story of how the Navajo were treated by the US government details how they were shooed from their own land, bit by bit, until it was declared that the Native people had no claim to the land – the land where they had lived for over 1,100 years!

Although some of the story at Wupatki is a sad one, the evidence of a well-developed community is fascinating to study. There are several other sites at Wupatki (Wukoki, Citadel and Nalakihu Pueblos), all worth a look.

Come back tomorrow to meet a Navajo weaver.

Wupatki National Monument is off US 89 north of Flagstaff, Arizona, 21 miles from the shared entrance to Sunset Crater Volcano. (Or about 15 miles north on US 89 and enter Wupatki directly.) Much of Wupatki is accessible. Entrance fee is $5 per person.

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply