Wupatki National Monument, northeast of Flagstaff, is one great reason to spend some time exploring the whole Flagstaff area. If you have never visited Wupatki. Spring 2013 is an ideal time to discover this wonderful Native American ruin.
The saying “location, location, location has meaning to all modern Arizonans as we try to buy our homes in the most ideal and valuable of places. But 900 years ago the ancient people who made their homes in today’s Wupatki National Monument also choose their home sites because of an ideal, high desert location.
Wupatki Pueblo, located 40 miles northeast of Flagstaff, was the largest, tallest, richest and most influential pueblo of its time. For us today, it is one of the best and most enjoyable ancient pueblo ruins in all of Arizona to get out and visit.
When Sunset Crater erupted in 1064-1065, it blanketed the surrounding area with a rich layer of volcanic ash that greatly increased the soil’s ability to hold and maintain moisture. Archeological evidence shows that a major immigration of perhaps 2000 people came to this land within a century after the volcanic eruption. Here they created a rich culture based on corn and squash and built the pueblo structures we find today at Wupatki National Monument.
The name Wupatki is a Hopi word that translates to mean “Tall House.” Over 800 ruins have been identified within the boundary of the national monument. Five of the largest ruins are close to the main road and thus easy to visit.
Wupatki Pueblo sets on a high desert plateau some 2000 feet lower in elevation than Sunset Crater. It is the largest of the pueblo ruins and once was home for 300 people. This 3-story high structure, made of 240 million year old Moencopi sandstone, has an unobstructed eastward view of the Painted Desert and Little Colorado River. An ancient ball court is found here which surely ties these people in some way to the Hohokam People of southern Arizona and the major cultures of Meso-America.
The Visitor Center for Wupatki National Monument is also located at this site. A leisurely stroll to the end the paved walkway brings one to a natural blowhole, which is a vent an underground cavern of some unknown depth.
Nalakihu Pueblo (house alone) was restored in 1933 by the staff of the Museum of Northern Arizona. Nearby Citadel Ruin (known as Teuwalanki by the Hopi) is so named because it reminded early westerners of a castle or fortress. Both ruins are a short drive from Wupatki.
Lomaki Pueblo (pretty house) is found some 7 miles northwest of Wupatki. It is a nine-room pueblo and was two stories tall in some places. Wukoki Pueblo (big house) was built atop a massive boulder some 3 miles east of Wupatki. It may have been the ancestral home of the Hopi Snake Clan.
The Anasazi and Sinagua People occupied these pueblos in the 12th and 13th Centuries. By the middle of the 13th Century the pueblos were abandoned. It is believe that the people moved further to the east and are the ancestors of the modern Hopi.
Members of the Hopi Bear, Sand, Lizard, Rattlesnake, Water, Snow and Katsina Clans are still return to Wupatki to learn of and enrich their understanding of their clans’ origin and history. Stories of Wupatki are also passed along through generations of the Zuni and Navajo people.
The pueblos of Wupatki National Monument all set at a crossroad of trade and cultures. New materials, crops, pottery styles and ideas all moved in and out of these communities. With cultural ties to the modern Hopi, Zuni and Navajo, Wupatki today is still remembered and cared for by Arizona’s Native American People; it has never been abandoned.