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Dr. Dean W. Blinn

Montezuma Well

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Man first came to the Well around 11,000 years ago, just after its formation according to some scientists. Large groups of wandering hunters would stop at the Well to drink and rest while tracking down wild game such as elephants, horses, and camels. For the next 9,000 years the Well was used as a resting spot, but no permanent settlements were built. Before the time of Christ, groups of wandering Indians first decided to live in the area around the Well, hunting small game (deer, ducks, and turtles) and gathering wild plants.

Around the year 600 A.D., another group of Indians called the Hohokam, (an Indian word meaning "those who have gone") moved in from southern Arizona. Archeologists think that they may have moved in from southern Arizona. Archeologists think that they may have moved north due to the lack of water and overpopulation. These people lived in primitive pithouses around the Well and started to grow their own food. They diverted water from the constantly flowing Well and used it for irrigating their crops of corn, beans, and squash.

Around the year 1125 A.D., another group of Native Americans came from the northern part of Arizona (Walnut Canyon and Wupatki settlements). Scientists think these Sunagua Indians (Spanish for "no water") may have moved down the Verde Valley because of the cold winters, disease, and overpopulation experienced at higher northern elevations. Their impact on the village is reflected by slow replacement of the pithouses with cliff dwellings, differences in pottery, and changes in burials. They did however continue to irrigate crops.

Soon the community grew and the cliff swellings expanded to consist of as many as 50-60 rooms. Sometime in the early 1400's the village was abandoned. It has been theorized that fear of war, crop failures, intra-village rivalry, and/or disease made them leave. In 1853, the first white men saw Montezuma Well. These early Spanish explorers found only the abandoned pueblos and some local Indians living in primitive huts. These Native Americans were not the irrigation farmers or the cliff dwellers of the past, but were gatherers, hunters, and stream-bank farmers. The people of this once large village were now gone, never to return. Montezuma Well became a National Monument on April 1, 1947. Its lands are now protected so our children will be able to enjoy its very special natural beauty.

The authors would like to thank Drs. G. Cole, R. Hevly, M. Sanderson and N. Grossnickle for the many conversations pertaining to the biology and archaeology of the Well and P. Boucher, B. Dehdashti and C. Pinney for assistance in the field and laboratory. Also, we would like to thank J. J. Landye for providing the aerial photograph of the Well on the cover. Special thanks are also extended to National Park Service personnel, especially Tom Ferrell, Jack Beckman and G. Henderson for their excellent cooperation. We thank Cindy Gould for typesetting the manuscript and Jim David for his support in the preparation of this brochure. This study was supported in part by funds from Organized Research at Northern Arizona University and The Whitehall Foundation, Inc.
Night in the Well Montezuma Well