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Matthew Guebard – “New Discoveries and Native American Traditional Knowledge at Montezuma Castle National Monument”

Note: This post refers to an event that took place on Jul 17, 2017.

Researchers prepare to depart Montezuma Castle cliff dwelling, 2016.                                                                              Photo Credit: Lucas Hoed

This presentation will discuss the use of archaeological information and Native American oral histories to investigate and interpret the abandonment of Castle A and Montezuma Castle, two large pueblo sites located near Camp Verde, Arizona. Archaeological data and traditional knowledge suggest that both sites were abandoned following a large and destructive fire at Castle A. Furthermore, archaeological evidence suggests this event occurred in the late 14th century and included arson and physical violence.

Native American oral histories from members of the Hopi Tribe and the Yavapai-Apache Nation recount the same violent event represented in the archaeological record. These stories suggest that a land dispute caused ancestral Yavapai and Apache people to attack Montezuma Castle and Castle A, which was inhabited by the ancestral Hopi. As the oral histories recount, the attack prompted the Castles’ inhabitants to abandon both sites and forced them on a migration path which eventually ended in the village of Songoòpavi, located on the Hopi Mesas.

Native American oral histories conflict with long-held archaeological beliefs regarding the arrival of ancestral Yavapai and Apache groups in central Arizona. While oral histories are sometimes dismissed as “inaccurate” records of the past, many archaeologists have come to increasingly rely on oral history as a way to supplement archaeological data. This presentation will illustrate how a partnership between tribal representatives and archaeologists yielded an accurate and detailed interpretation of past events at Montezuma Castle National Monument.