Archeological Work – Montezuma Castle National Monument AZ


The Civilian Conservation Corps’ Indian Division (CCC-ID) did archeological excavation and stabilization work at several sites of ancient indigenous ruins across Arizona in the 1930s.  A Navajo Indian CCC mobile unit was formed under a joint program between the Park Service and the Indian Service (later the Bureau of Indian Affairs) to work under the supervision of an archeologist on stabilization work on pre-Columbian ruins in Chaco Canyon, Navajo, Tonto, Wupatki, Aztec Ruins, Montezuma Castle, and Gran Quivira national monuments (Paige 1985, p. ?)

It is likely that CCC enrollees also built the main visitor trail at the monument, but that needs to be confirmed.

There is a diorama (scale model) of Montezuma Castle along the loop trail in the monument that is likely a CCC production (there is a similar diorama in the Museum of  Indigenous People in Prescott AZ, done by Civil Works Administration workers).

They also probably worked at Montezuma Well, a nearby addition to the National Monument.

Montezuma Castle was declared a national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.  It has nothing to do with the Aztec ruler Montezuma; the name reflects Anglo mythology about native history. Instead, it was built by the Sinagua people in the period 1100-1400.  It is perhaps the finest example of the Sinagua’s exceptional construction abilities, containing over 20 rooms in 5 stories set into the middle of the 200 foot cliff above Beaver Creek.

The ruins were plundered of artifacts in the 19th century and were finally closed to public visitation in 1951.

Source notes

John Paige, The Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service, 1933-1942: An Administrative History. Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1985.


Project originally submitted by Richard Walker on April 30, 2022.
Additional contributions by Joan Greer.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

Montezuma Castle National Monument
Camp Verde, AZ 86322

Coordinates: 34.6123945, -111.839872

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