Excavation and Restoration – Wupatki National Monument AZ


Archaeological excavation and restoration of the prehistoric settlement at Wupatki began in 1933 under the guidance of Harold Colton, founder and director of the Museum of Northern Arizona.  In the winter of 1933-34 Civil Works Administration (CWA) provided the relief labor to continue excavation and restoration.  Next came a Navajo Indian CCC mobile unit formed under a joint program between the Park Service and the Indian Service (later the Bureau of Indian Affairs) to do stabilization work on indigenous ruins in Chaco Canyon, Navajo, Tonto, Aztec Ruins, Montezuma Castle, and Gran Quivira national monuments, as well as Wupatki (Paige 1985, Ch 4).

Finally, in 1939-42, a contingent of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) enrollees (from Mt Elden camp at Flagstaff) began development of the monument for public use, building trails, a ranger residence, a utility building, and water supply system. (NNDPA 2012)

The Wupatki site was built by the Sinagua people, who farmed the area during the 12th century.  An explosion of nearby Sunset Crater in 1064 covered the region with a coating of ash that nourished crops for a century or more. The multi-story buildings contained around 100 rooms. There are two ball courts at the site, which appears to  have been a ceremonial and gathering center for small pueblos around the region, rather than a permanent dwelling.

Wupatki was declared a national monument in 1924, following decades of plunder of artifacts by American settlers.

Some excessive reconstructions (including a ranger office) from the 1930s were removed in the 1950s.


Source notes

NNDPA, "The New Deal in Arizona: Connections to Our Historic Landscape," The New Deal in Arizona Chapter of the National New Deal Preservation Association, 2012. http://content.library.arizona.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/NewDeal/id/199/rec/56




Project originally submitted by Joan Greer on April 17, 2022.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.

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


Location Info

Loop Road
Wupatki National Monument, AZ 86020

Coordinates: 35.520165, -111.371051

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