As soon as the sun rose, we dressed and, leaving all the stuff behind, rode the 2 miles to the Aztec ruins.
Photos courtesy of his nibs – motoguzziman
The Aztec Ruins were mistakenly thought by early white explorers to be relics of the great 15th century central Mexican civilisation though, as with most other ancient settlements of the Southwest, they actually date from around the 12th century and were built by tribes indigenous to this region. In this case the people were probably related to the Mesa Verde group in Colorado though they also had close ties with Chaco culture, center of which was 55 miles further south. What remains today is a walled village with almost 400 rooms on 3 levels, over a dozen kivas (circular ceremonial areas), and which since excavation and limited reconstruction may be toured in a very good state of preservation.
Construction of the Aztec settlements began in the late 11th century, had two distinct phases separated by many decades of inactivity and ended around 1300 as the residents moved away, probably to neighboring areas such as the pueblos of the Rio Grande valley and the present day Hopi and Navajo reservations in Arizona, a relocation thought to be due either to drought or loss of fertility of the surrounding lands. The village became ruined, slowly covered by the desert sands and remained unvisited until the mid nineteenth century – the first known rediscovery was in 1859. Years of sporadic looting and several archaeological expeditions followed and not until 1923 did the ruins receive full protection when the national monument was established. The site is still considered sacred by many Southwestern tribes.