Landmark History: Tuzigoot

Tuzigoot - Looking Out
A view from the roof of the central structure of Tuzigoot.

The Landmark

Last I week I gave you the history of Montezuma Castle, a cliff-side dwelling built by the Sinagua people sometime around the 1100s. I mentioned in that article that the Sinagua people returned to the Verde Valley region of Arizona around the early to mid 1100s due to the fertile soil left behind by a volcanic eruption sometime around the year 1050 AD. Tuzigoot National Monument is another example of the structures built by the Sinagua people during this fertile period of the valley before they would migrate to other regions in the 1400s.

Tuzigoot has its own charm and style about it though. Instead of being built into the side of a cliff overlooking a creek, Tuzigoot is a 110 room pueblo structure situated atop sandstone and limestone ridge near a small cutoff from the Verde River. The monument is the best preserved pueblo ruin built by the Sinagua people in the region.

Offering expansive views of the Verde Valley, the small art town of Jerome and other surrounding cliffs, Tuzigoot is a great stop for landscape photographers. Like Montezuma Castle, Tuzigoot is an easy visit. Despite its position on a ridge, the small trail that takes you around the pueblo is mostly flat. Taking in the scenery and enjoying the small museum in the visitor’s center won’t take you more than an hour. It’s also a great stop on your way between Sedona and Phoenix.

While the route may seem a bit circuitous, you can easily visit both Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot as part of the “scenic route” to Sedona, which is fortunate because having a ticket to one of the National Monuments saves you $2 on your visit to the other (and admission is already fairly cheap).

The History

Tuzigoot’s history is similar to that of Montezuma Castle, but with it’s own set of unique details. Built by the Sinagua people in the early to mid 1100s, Tuzigoot is situated above the floodplain of the Verde River. Tuzigoot means crooked water in Apache, a reference to Pecks Lake which is Northwest of the ruins.

The Sinagua culture was largely based around agriculture and trade. Building Tuzigoot on its ridge ensured easy access to the surrounding fertile lands, while avoiding any potential problems with the structure being washed away by seasonal flooding. It also allows for a great view of the surrounding area, allowing for residents to keep an eye out for potential traders from as far away as Mexico. Bones from macaw parrots were uncovered at Tuzigoot, indicating these trade connections. Additionally, there is evidence that the Sinagua grew a species of cotton from South America, meaning that they were weaving before Europeans even came close to Arizona.

It is estimated that around 250 people inhabited Tuzigoot at its peak. Interestingly, very few of the tightly packed rooms appear to have any doors. The reason for this is that trap doors were commonly built into the roof of the room and ladders were used for entering and exiting them. While it may seem that Tuzigoot is situated ideally as some kind of fort and this roof access may have made it difficult for any potential invaders to access the dwellings, there is not much evidence of warfare in the area. Instead, these rooftop trapdoors were more likely built to keep animals out rather than any enemies. It is also believed that on upper floors, regular doors built into the walls of the structure were used.

As with Montezuma Castle, the Sinagua people would abandon Tuzigoot sometime in the early to mid 1400s. Again, the reason for this is not entirely clear; however it is likely due to a lack of resources or tensions brewing with other cultures in the area. It is believed that many of the Sinagua people would simply join other tribes, such as the Hopi. Tuzigoot would be largely forgotten until the 1900s.

The nearby town of Jerome was supported by copper mines discovered in the late 1800s. Mining would support the town through the early 1900s, but after the Great Depression, the ore deposits would run dry and population in Jerome would fall to less than 100 by the 1950s. These mines would have a lasting impact on the valley surrounding Tuzigoot as much of the mining waste was dumped nearby. The tailings from the mining operation are still vaguely visible; however, the area was recently replanted and much of the area’s natural beauty is returning.

Tuzigoot was excavated and opened to the public in the mid 1930s. Franklin D. Roosevelt designated it a National Monument on July 25, 1939. Unlike Montezuma Castle, some of the areas of the Tuzigoot ruins are still accessible to the public, especially the rooftop of the central structure. If your curious about the history of the native peoples of the American West or curious about the impact of the expansion westward, I highly recommend a visit.

What to know if you go

Unlike Montezuma Castle, you are up out of the valley on a ridge here. On a sunny day, you’ll definitely want sunscreen and probably a bottle of water. Your very exposed to the sun at this monument.

Entry costs $5 per person. Having a pass for Montezuma Castle saves you $2 per person (the same applies for having a pass for Tuzigoot and going to Montezuma Castle).

Places

Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument, Tuzigoot Road, Clarkdale, AZ, United States
1-928-634-5564

Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument, Tuzigoot Road, Clarkdale, AZ, United States
1-928-634-5564
http://www.nps.gov/tuzi/index.htm

Landmark History: Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle
Montezuma Castle, high up on its cliff.

The Landmark

Montezuma Castle is a great place for us to start our new recurring Landmark History series – this cliff-side dwelling has a long history spanning centuries and even an air of mystery about it.

Located in the Verde Valley in Arizona, Montezuma Castle is a permanent stone dwelling built nearly 100 feet up a cliff face. The dwelling is five stories tall and contains approximately 50 rooms. Other smaller more makeshift dwellings dot the cliff and the overall park contains other dwellings should you care to visit them; however, Montezuma Castle is definitely the main attraction. The cliff on which the castle is situated faces a stream known as Beaver Creek, which creates a bit of an oasis-like environment to the park.

This is an easy National Monument to visit – there’s very little walking and the short trail in the area is very accessible. The area also includes more preserved dwellings, but they are separated from the castle. If you are just looking for a quick stop on your way to Sedona from Phoenix (as we were) this is a perfect place to stop as it’s only a couple of miles off of the highway and only takes 30 minutes to an hour to enjoy your visit.

The History

While the structure itself is impressive – the storied past of Montezuma Castle is what makes it so fascinating. The Sinagua people began inhabiting the area, known as the Verde Valley, sometime around the 8th century. Evidence of permanent dwellings date back to around 1050 AD, though it was around this time that the eruption of a nearby volcano caused a brief period of abandonment of the Verde Valley.

Long term, this eruption likely had a positive impact on the valley: nutrient-rich soil deposits. The Sinagua people returned to the Verde Valley in the early to mid 1100s. The Sinagua culture was built on agriculture and the combination of the fertile, volcanic soil with the reliable waters of Beaver Creek made the valley a perfect place to settle.

Construction of Montezuma Castle is thought to have began early in this resettlement period. The positioning of the structure may seem inherently defensive; however, it’s more likely that the dwelling was built into the cliff to solve a much  more practical problem: yearly flooding of Beaver Creek during the summer monsoon season. Elevating the structure above the floodplain ensured that the dwelling was never washed away.

The dwelling was probably built overtime, added on to by subsequent generations, eventually growing in to the structure that we can view today. Eventually, Montezuma Castle would house up to 50 people. Verde Valley’s population would begin to decline sometime around 1300, falling gradually until the dwelling was abandoned early in the 1400s. This is where the mystery comes from for the Montezuma Castle.

The Sinagua are known to have migrated to other areas, though the reasoning behind it remains unclear. There are a number of likely causes for the migration: drought or other farming issues or tensions with the Yavapai people who had begun to inhabit the area may have driven them away.

Montezuma Castle would be rediscovered by various groups of settlers making their way west. In 1864, it would receive its present day name from King Woolsey in 1864 when he mistook the nearby pueblos at Montezuma Well for Aztec ruins, naming the site after several Aztec Emperors. This provides a perfect example of how historical gaffs can stick with a place forever.

The first dig at the Montezuma Castle site would be done in 1884. Unfortunately, early settlers known as “thieves of time” from around 1870 into the early 1900s would loot and ransack the sites, removing most of the historical artifacts from the area.

Still, the remarkable engineering of the Sinagua people has stood the test of time and the site is impressive to see today. This was recognized by Teddy Roosevelt who designated it as one of the original four National Monuments on December 8, 1906 under the American Antiquities Act. The castle would be later added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Sadly, structural concerns have closed off access to the interior of the ruins, which were open to visitors until 1951.

If you’re looking for glimpses into the history of the American West, Montezuma Castle stands as an example of the storied past of the United States and its original, native groups. Still today, Yavapai and Hopi people who trace their roots to this area after the Sinagua people left return to the site for various ceremonies. The area surrounding the monument is beautiful and perfect for those looking for an easy place to stretch their legs as they make their way across the great state of Arizona.

What to know if you go

Google Navigation only takes you to the front sign of the park area for Montezuma Castle, so don’t panic when your GPS tells you that you have arrived and all you see is a sign on the side of the road. Keep going – it’s not that much further.

Entry costs $5 per person. Having a pass for Tuzigoot saves you $2 per person (the same applies for having a pass for Montezuma Castle and going to Tuzigoot).

Places

Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Camp Verde, AZ, United States
(928) 567-3322

Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Camp Verde, AZ, United States
(928) 567-3322
http://www.nps.gov/moca/index.htm

Wormsloe Plantation – Haunting Reminders of the Past

Wormsloe Gate
The gate to the Wormsloe Historic Site.
This post contains photo spheres. You can click the links within the post to view these 360° photos. Click and drag the picture to pan around the scene.

On our recent trip to Savannah, Kim and I visited a plantation known as the Wormsloe Historic Site. Wormsloe was constructed by Noble Jones, one of the members of the party that founded Savannah. He landed in Georgia alongside James Oglethorpe in 1733. Noble Jones performed many duties as a member of the fledgling colony, including surveying, scouting and more.

Eventually, Jones would request a lease of 500 acres of land from the trustees behind the colony overlooking Skidaway Narrows. His fortified house, which was completed in 1745, was to act as a defensive structure built to patrol the area and block any Spanish incursions into English-claimed lands.

Jones constructed the home using wood and tabby. Tabby is an inferior concrete created from oyster shells and lime. It was frequently used in place of bricks which were expensive and difficult to create in colonial America. Now, the home lies in ruins, tucked back in the woods on the property.

Upon driving through the gates of the property, you will see one of the most beautiful parts of Wormsloe. Its mile and a half approach consists of a dirt driveway surrounded by live oaks draped in Spanish moss. This drive lends an almost mystical feel to the property that is characteristic of so many southern US locales. These trees and their ghostly drapery create a haunting air that drags your mind back to the past, allowing you to fully appreciate the history of such places. See for yourself (this is a video of our drive out of Wormsloe):

Once you’ve driven up to the parking area, there is another short walk to the actual ruins. The property has several hiking areas, but we only checked out the museum at the parking area and the ruins themselves. The ruins themselves are beautiful in the way that nature has had its way with the fortified home. Little remains except for the crumbling tabby walls. Even still, you can feel the history of the place and the fact that it was set back from any populated area gives it a calming, contemplative feel. We had the place to ourselves when we arrived and all we could hear was the occasional snap of a twig or the scrabbling of a squirrel through the underbrush. I really enjoyed taking pictures of the ruins.

As we wandered the grounds, I could not help but think about how starting anew with only the smallest comforts and advantages we are accustomed to would be a great concept for a game. With the spike of survival games, we have begun to capture this concept in very narrative-lite games. Games like DayZ and even Minecraft drop you in a world with almost nothing, expecting you to figure out your own survival or die trying. I think there is definitely room in the narrative open-world space for ideas like this and that the concept will only become more popular as we are hopefully at the dawn of a new era of exploration. Missions are slowly gaining traction to send people to Mars and possibly one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, even farther down the road. Some of us may live to see the start of a new era of colonization (albeit hopefully a more responsible and considerate version of the past).

Imagine a game set in an untamed world where you have been sent by a corporation to create a profitable colony. You have enough supplies to feed your small party for a few weeks, but must begin making your own way in this hostile world or die. Combining emergent narrative and scripted, but randomized narrative events while also blending elements of first person action/adventure and city building sims could create a very interesting player experience. Players would be responsible for managing their brave group of explorers while also putting their own work in to ensure their fragile community succeeds, lest they lose the favor of their investors.

Wormsloe is essentially a remainder of such a concept – an abandoned, fortified home left over from the dawn of a colony that would eventually grow into a city. While Wormsloe stands broken, it is not forgotten and stands as a testament of more turbulent times. I recommend a visit for those who are interested in history, particularly early colonial American history. I know I found it inspiring!

What to know if you go

  • It costs $10 per adult to enter the site and they would prefer that you pay before snapping your pictures (since some people come into the property to just take a picture of the driveway and then leave).
  • They do offer guided walking tours 10 AM, 11 AM, 2 PM and 3 PM. These tours are included in your admission.
  • Definitely walk through the museum before hiking around the property. It’s not huge and will take you maybe 10-15 minutes and it’s worth it to get an idea of what the tabby structure would have looked like before it fell into ruin. the movie is okay, but you can skip it – it just gives you details on Noble Jones and his family, most of which you can gather from the museum pretty quickly.

Places

Wormsloe Historic Site

7601 Skidaway Rd Savannah, GA 31406 Chatham County
912-353-3023

Wormsloe Historic Site

7601 Skidaway Rd Savannah, GA 31406 Chatham County
912-353-3023
http://gastateparks.org/Wormsloe

Pearl Harbor: Reflecting on the Past

U.S.S Arizona Memorial
The U.S.S Arizona memorial.

Something you all will learn about me is that beyond travel and video games (and Kim *winks*), I have a passion for history with a particular interest in World War II. I’ve long-since devoured Ambrose’s works (I’m looking at my copy of Citizen Soldiers right now) and made my way through every historical narrative and memoir from the war I can get my hands on. Works by veterans such as E.B. ‘Sledgehammer’ Sledge, Robert ‘Lucky’ Leckie, William ‘Wild Bill’ Guarnere and Edward ‘Babe’ Heffron grace my library as some of my favorite books. I attribute much of this interest and respect for veterans of all wars to my father: a former Marine and a veteran of the Gulf War.

It was due to my father’s military career that I have the extreme honor of having been born on and lived for a time on Oahu. In my youth, my parents never took me over to Pearl Harbor, but as an adult, I could not wait to visit the site with an understanding of the event. Let’s get this out of the way really quick in case you missed it in that last sentence (Beware – the rest of this paragraph may sound a bit preachy or self-righteous. I’d call it cautionary, but you may want to skip ahead just a tiny bit if you have young kids and don’t want to be told how to parent by a kid-less punk).

War memorials demand a certain amount of respect and are not exactly high on the “thrill factor” – this is by design. People go to these places to garner an understanding of our history and to pay respects to those who fought and died to build that history. I don’t want to dig into the politics of any conflict as that goes well beyond what we want to cover here – what I’m trying to get at is that places like this are a somber, often humbling experience meant to prevent us from forgetting our mistakes so that we don’t end up repeating them. Which brings me to this: war memorials are not really a good family oriented outing with respect to young kids. Those of you with kids know your kids much better than I do (I’d hope) so use your best judgement when visiting lest you get scowled at by the likes of me.

That being said, Pearl Harbor is a fantastic place to visit for those looking to gain a bit of perspective on the leading pretense for the United States finally joining WWII. Kim and I visited as part of a whirlwind, daylong tour of Oahu. We had booked a tour with Pearl Harbor Tours. As we were trying to cram a lot of our own activities into one day, we were looking for a short tour and their Pearl Harbor & Historic Honolulu City Tour fit the bill perfectly. They picked us up right from our hotel bright and early in a small tour bus in downtown Honolulu, got us into Pearl Harbor right when it opened and had us back in about 5 hours – we were back by lunch. Our driver was great (his name escapes me) and extremely informative.

The drive along Waikiki to H1 towards Pearl Harbor was nice. Waikiki is full of fun resorts, touristy shops and restaurants and the beach is gorgeous. The real fun for me though, was getting to see the hospital where I was born as we made our way along H1: the just-so-lovely, sprawling monstrosity that is the Triply Army Medical Center. Take a look:

Nice, isn’t it?

Soon enough we had reached Pearl Harbor: a gorgeous, well harbor. Even if some of your party is just interested in some beautiful pictures, bring them along. The worst that happens is that they learn something. One of the first things I said to Kim as we were wandering about was something along the lines of “While Pearl Harbor was a terrible tragedy, at least there is some solace that those who went down with their ships rest in such a beautiful spot.”

When you arrive at Pearl Harbor, the obvious main attraction and focal point for your view is the memorial platform erected over the U.S.S Arizona. This beautiful monument serves to remind you of the lives lost on December 7, 1941. It was recommended to us that we take the early tour so that we could get a good time for the boat that will take you out to this platform. Apparently, on busy days you can miss out if you don’t get there soon enough. We still had almost two hours to wait and we got their right when it opened. That said, there’s a few nice attractions to take in while you wait for your boat. First, there’s the view of the harbor, (as stated – beautiful).

The grounds of the memorial welcome area are well groomed and feature a number of informational plaques and pictures showing how the ships were arranged on that historic day. Quotes from survivors of the attack are engraved on some of the displays, lending some humanity and insight into an event most of us cannot begin to comprehend for ourselves. Additionally, a handful of very detailed and extremely well done exhibits are inside some of the buildings. Highlights include the extended video briefing on Pearl Harbor (you will receive a short version just before boarding the boat to the U.S.S Arizona), newspapers showing the headlines of the attack and other interesting artifacts from the attack. We found that the two exhibits, “Road to War” and “Attack”, while compact, took up a good chunk of the time we had prior to boarding our craft out to the U.S.S Arizona.

It is heartbreaking, but hauntingly beautiful.

The real highlight though is actually reaching the U.S.S Arizona memorial. As you approach, you get a better view of the U.S.S Missouri (the site of surrender of the Empire of Japan – where WWII effectively ended). This ship stands as a reminder that the tragedy surrounding you was not allowed to fade into antiquity and those that fought to defend the harbor were not lost in vain. Surrounding the Arizona memorial are markers indicating where other American ships were damaged or sunk.

The US flag flies above the memorial, fluttering gently in the trade winds. Inside, an air of reverence takes hold of you and your boat mates. At the back is a list of the US Navy and US Marine Corps crew who died aboard the U.S.S Arizona. Small barricades politely remind visitors to stay back and reflect so that everyone can get a good view of this wall of 1177 names. In the center of the platform, a Navy Officer will perform a changing of the colors. The center of the platform has some large viewing cutouts so that you can see the ship below you. Fish glide gently about it and you can still see some slicks of oil and rust floating away in the waves. Some of the taller portions of the ship still poke up from beneath the waves. It is heartbreaking, but hauntingly beautiful.

I have a passion for history and visiting Pearl Harbor proved to be a wonderful, insightful experience. I want to understand history from the point of view of the people who lived it, particularly WWII history because it shaped the world as we know it today. History was made at Pearl Harbor and we are still dealing with the repercussions in many ways today and visiting it in person, no matter how much you’ve read about the events of December 7,1941, will undoubtedly affect you and teach you more than you could ever learn from reading or watching movies. That being said, I feel like visiting Pearl Harbor has provided me with new insights to carry to my other passion: game development.

I personally believe that done well, games offer us a window into things that we don’t understand that is unlike any other media in existence. Games are interactive and experiential and I think that narrative focused games could do a lot to help us understand our history while still proving entertaining. I’m in the camp that thinks WWII games should make a comeback using the best technology we have available. I don’t believe that the “great” WWII game has been made yet. There is no Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers of World War II video games yet. Some have captured moments of the conflict – the D-Day sequence in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, the Pearl Harbor scene in Medal of Honor: Rising Sun and countless other moments of WWII have been portrayed and often done well in games like Call of Duty and Brothers in Arms, but what these games often fail to capture are the extremely human parts of World War II – the parts contained and focused on heavily in most of the memoirs I’ve ever read. Combat was absolutely a huge part of WWII and should be a focus of (almost) any game set in the conflict, but most of these games fail to take on or involve (cut-scenes don’t count) the player in the tragedy, heart-break, triumph, humor and brotherhood/unity that were part of the carnage.

This isn’t a slight to the developers of the titles I mentioned above – I understand budget and technology constraints, but with games like The Last of Us or the poorly titled, but woefully underrated Spec Ops: The Line coming out now, I think we’ve learned a lot over the past decade and that we should take into account. In short, the first “great” WWII game of Saving Private Ryan caliber will be exhaustively researched and all respect will be given to the veterans and politics of the time in order to give the player the most comprehensive experience that you possibly can. (And hey – if you’re hiring to make a World War II game, I’m definitely available *wink*).

What to know if you go

Pearl Harbor Tours

The tour we took was the Pearl Harbor & Historic Honolulu City Tour, but there are plenty of options.

Phone: 808-737-3700

Places

Pearl Harbor

1 Arizona Memorial Place
Honolulu, HI 96818
(808)423-7300

Pearl Harbor

1 Arizona Memorial Place
Honolulu, HI 96818
(808)423-7300
http://www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm
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