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When I was in Europe, it was amazing to me how much history was in every turn. Churches were centuries old and some homes had been used for generations upon generations. That is a very different experience than I have in America. We’re a young country, and our history is young history. Of course, our nation’s history doesn’t begin with the Europeans. The Native Americans were here first, and have rich traditions as old as the ones I observed in Europe. However, a lot of their buildings were created to be temporary and easily moved to fit tribes’ lifestyles.
The exceptions are the cliff dwellers and pueblo builders of the Southwest. We were able to see homes built by both, but by far my favorite stop was Wupatki National Monument. Located somewhat near Flagstaff, it is a great stop between Sedona and the Grand Canyon. It is really two National Park Service sites in one because it is right next door to Sunset Crater Volcano – which is historically significant.
Wupatki means “Tall House” in Hopi, and it really was. The Sinagua pueblo was multi-story and had more than 100 rooms and was first inhabited around 500 AD. After Sunset Crater erupted sometime between 1040 and 1100, the rich soil probably improved the growing potential of the desert soil, and an influx of people brought the number of inhabitants to about 100. But by 1225, the site was completely abandoned – probably the result of another eruption of Sunset Crater.
Today, Wupatki National Monument takes care of several pueblos in the area of varying size and state of ruin. It is amazing to me that these people with no visible water source were able to make a home in such an inhospitable environment. It is a site I highly recommend for all travelers – including families with children. While my kids haven’t started an in-depth study of Native American history, it was very beneficial for them to see a home very different from their own.