Sunday, May 1, 2022

Creative Archaeology in Arizona

Montezuma Castle
Watercolour and crayon
©2022 Charlene Brown

Some of the pictures my daughter sent reminded me of similar pictures I’d taken when we visited Arizona in 2006.  There seemed to be a lot more very paintable-looking trees in our pictures so I’ve added them. I was told at the time that the trees were ‘ghost gums,’ but have since wondered if that was a little creative forest taxonomy to accompany the following creative archeology that led to the subject of this painting being called Montezuma Castle.  

About 150 years ago, European settlers, under the impression that all the really impressive archaeological sites in the southern part of North America were engineered by the Aztecs, named the structure after Montezuma II, the ruler during the Aztec Empire’s greatest expansion.  The name stuck even after it was determined that the place was abandoned in 1425 CE, about 40 years before Montezuma was born.  A Western National Parks publication, ‘A Past Preserved in Stone: A History of Montezuma Castle National Monument,’ states the ingeniously-located structure functioned more like a “prehistoric high-rise apartment complex.”