Aztec Ruins, NM

Farmington, NM

Just 15 miles north of our location here in northwest New Mexico is the small town of Aztec, home of the Aztec Ruins National Monument.

The structures date to the 11th to 13th centuries, and the misnomer attributing them to the Aztec civilization can be traced back to early American settlers in the mid-19th century. The actual construction was not by the Aztecs, who were never in this area, but by Ancestral Puebloans.

The Great Kiva was one of many kivas in this community.  Archaeologist Earl Morris excavated it in 1921 and reconstructed it in 1934.

The interior of the kiva has been restored to what experts believe is the original condition.

Reconstructed model of a young puebloan maiden

Reconstruction of the original wooden ceiling

Smaller kiva nearby

Series of interior rooms connected by doorways

The ceilings in many of the interior rooms still have the original wood.  Rather than using local timber, the builders chose to bring in high quality roof beams from higher elevations over 20 miles to the north.  Since these people did not use the wheel or pack animals, the wood had to be carried or dragged that long distance by hand!

Many buildings in Puebloan ruins showed alignment with solar and lunar events.  The wall pictured below lines up with sunrise on the summer solstice and sunset on the winter solstice.

Levels of green sandstone run along some of the walls of the ruins.  The reason for this band is unknown.

Unlike many ruins in the four corners area, the Aztec Ruins National Monument is easily accessible in the town of Aztec and can be explored on paved trails.  It is a great place to explore Puebloan life without a long drive or strenuous hiking.

Next up for us is a place that is not so easily accessible:  Chaco Culture National Historical Park.  More on that later . . .

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16 Responses to Aztec Ruins, NM

  1. Looks like a very large pueblo! Love the band of different colored stone in the building. Pam would have fit right in in this culture! 😉

  2. LuAnn says:

    My list of places to visit in New Mexico is growing ever larger thanks to you two.

  3. geogypsy2u says:

    I remember that great kiva being very impressive. Funny I don’t remember the maiden.

  4. Shannon says:

    We are staying on the other side of Aztec. Been living here for a decade now. Sorry to have missed you if you’ve left already.

    • placestheygo says:

      We were up north of Aztec today, Shannon, to check out the Cox Canyon arch. This was our last day here in Farmington. We head out tomorrow, but we’ll be back. There are still places we need visit and more arches to find. Hope all goes well with your house sale!

  5. That is one huge kiva! The young puebloan maiden seemed happy to show you around. Love that photo at the series of interior door.

  6. Gerri & Mike says:

    We plan to be in this area late summer/ early fall. We will definitely visit Aztec Ruins National Monument. I simply love this kind of history.

  7. Laurel says:

    We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Aztec NM a couple of years ago—I remember it as peaceful and beautiful, and the visitor center, although small, was excellent. I found it fascinating that the visitor center was the former home of Earl Halstead Morris, the renowned archeologist who spent years excavating the ruins. He used roof timbers reclaimed from the ruins when he built his home—that would be totally illegal now, of course! Cute photo of that young Puebloan maiden. 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, I had read about Earl Morris finding the Great Kiva, excavating it, and leading the reconstruction. The logs that he brought to use in his house from the ruins have been had samples taken so the dating of the wood could be authenticated. Makes the VC extra special.

  8. pmbweaver says:

    Awesome header photo.
    That is the biggest kiva I have ever seen. I love the ceiling. It is so cool to see original ceiling beams of one of the kivas.
    What an absolutely amazing place!

  9. Sue says:

    You’ve managed to find another place I haven’t heard of. We really haven’t explored that corner of NM, but now it’s on the list! I wonder if that stripe of green was just for beauty, not for any other reason? Love the photo of the interior doorways!

  10. Jodee Gravel says:

    What a wonderful place!! That kiva is spectacular – thanks for including so many great pics. Wonder if the maiden knows the young warrior lurking in the doorways?

  11. Nancy says:

    Wow! Love all those ruins. Also enjoyed the history. It took brawn to build these living places! Thank so much for sharing!

  12. Amazing what those people could construct in the days before backhoes!! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Gay says:

    Beautiful stone work…what an awesome place to explore!

  14. Debbie L says:

    Isn’t it amazing?!?!?! As good as your pictures are, I sure hope we make it there one day…just not sure when we’ll be able to break away from the east coast!!! But your posts sure do pull us in that direction!

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