Aztec Ruins National Monument, NM (Tim)
10/27/17 - Northwest New Mexico
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As I was driving to this place, I thought, "I know lots of tribes lived in the New Mexico area, like Hopi, Navajo and Zuni. But I thought the Aztecs were only down in Mexico and Central America." At the ranger station, I found my puzzlement was well founded. The Aztecs were never here, either living or even trading. Back in the 1500s, the Spanish conquistidors landed in Mexico and met the Aztecs. The Spaniards then headed north as far as present day Kansas looking for the fabled cities of gold. After their initial contact in Mexico, any unidentified Indians or ruins the Spaniards stumbled upon were called "Aztecs". That misleading name happened to stick to this particular old pueblo, and the neighboring town took the name Aztec.
This is a scale model of the ruins. One large kiva (or covered meeting room) used by the whole community, a smaller kiva nearby, and then a bunch of rectangular rooms up to three stories high.
The large kiva was totally renovated back in the 1930s.
Looking down into the small kiva. Note the fire pit at the bottom. The kiva used to have a domed wooden roof with a hole at the top. The hole served two purposes - to let the smoke out and to let people climb in using a ladder. On the left side, you can see a small ventilation shaft that ran underground a ways and then went up to the surface. This shaft allowed fresh air to come in and provide circulation to get the smoke out.
This is a doorway from one of the outer rooms into the central courtyard. Note that is is T-shaped, narrow at the bottom and broader at the top. No one knows why, but it was a common feature in many of the doorways.
Look closely at the rocks forming the back wall. Sometimes there are rows of rocks 6" high and sometimes rows of rocks only 1" or 2" high. That made me wonder if that was done as a bit of decoration. When the large kiva was excavated in the 1930s, they found numerous places that were painted primary colors, like red, green and white, so the Indians that lived here were clearly interested in spiffing up their pueblo some.
In this different room, the back wall has a row of dark green rocks that came from a quarry 30 miles away. That indicates a real serious desire to decorate!
About 75% of the way through the self-guided tour of the pueblo, the path went into the ruins and through a tiny door. I tried, but couldn't make it through that little door by simply crouching. I opted to not crawl on my hands and knees.