Wupatki National Monument

Wupatki National Monument
Photo by: Howcheng, Creative Commons

In the northern desert of Arizona, there is a scattered collection of abandoned Native American settlements. The Ancient Pueblo People – a collection of various Native American tribes – once lived here in large buildings called pueblos. The largest of these pueblos, called Wupatki, is now considered a national monument, along with all the other pueblos in the area.

Wupatki – “Tall House” – is the tallest and largest pueblo in the area. It was home to around a hundred people, with around a hundred rooms, a large community room, and even a ball court Even more people lived around Wupatki in other pueblos and settlements during its heyday. Today, the area is a desert which could hardly have supported such large numbers of people. How could the Ancient Pueblo People have lived at Wupatki?

It is now believed that the surge in population was caused, quite ironically, by the eruption of nearby Sunset Crater Volcano. The eruption threw up a large amount of ash into the atmosphere which soon after settled on the ground. The ash greatly improved the agricultural potential of the surrounding desert ground, and the Ancient Pueblo People soon took advantage of the increased fertility and water holding capacity of the soil. For a time, the area was densely populated. Trade and culture flourished. Over time though, the people of Wupatki and the surrounding area moved on, leaving their settlements behind. In the present, native American tribes such as the Hopi and Navajo still pass on stories about Wupatki and still return periodically to the site.

The Wupatki National Monument, found near the city of Flagstaff, was established to preserve the architecture and other archaeological treasures of the area. Tourists may visit the area to see firsthand the wonderful structures built in the middle of a now barely hospitable desert. A one and a half mile long trail provides access to the pueblos.

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