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.
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 . . .