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Jeff’s New Mexico Adventures – Aztec Ruins

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Like the Salmon Ruins, the Aztec Ruins National Monument (www.nps.gov/azru/index.htm) is located in the city of Aztec and are easy to reach. There’s even a small picnic area.

These ruins are really amazing. They are well preserved, and an asphalt walkway leads you around the buildings. This makes most of the area handicap accessible, except for going into some of the ruins. We were there for several hours, and could easily have spent the entire day experiencing the site.

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Old floor beams.

I do want to give you one warning about exploring Native American ruins. Indians seem to love small doorways. By small, I mean the average doorway is 24 inches (0.6 meters) wide and 36 inches (0.9 meters) tall. And you don’t just step through these doorways. They are built into walls that are 24-36 inches (0.6-0.9 meters) thick. So someone like me, who is almost 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall, had to crawl through the doorways, with a 25 pound (11.3 kilograms) camera pack on my back and work at pulling myself out of the other side.

At Aztec, I went through one section with four doorways, then returned through them, and the same with another section of three doorways. After going through those fourteen doorways my thighs were shot for two days. The next day, I was at another ruin where one section had about fifteen doorways. I walked around the outside of the ruins.

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These low doorways will test your thighs.

Part of reason for the small doorways was to help with temperature control in the heat of summer and the cold of winter. And I’m guessing that the average Indian, 1,000 years ago, was about 5′ 1″ (1.54 meters) tall, maybe 100 pounds (45 kilograms) and in great shape. So a small doorway was no big deal to them.

The ruins at Aztec are in very good shape, and the Great Kiva has been completely rebuilt. When you’re inside, you feel like you’ve gone back in time. By the back door is a pillar with a button you can push to hear some Native American music. It’s a magical experience to be in this kiva and hear the music.

I also have to say that the architectural and engineering skills of the Native Americans were truly amazing. At most ruins you will find three and four story buildings, and the roof of the Great Kiva at Aztec weighs 95 tons (86,182.55 metric tons). Having the skills to build this between the late 1000s A.D. and 1200s A.D. is almost unimaginable.

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Besides the Great Kiva, be sure to visit:

  • West Ruin – This is the largest of the houses with at least 500 rooms.
  • Hubbard Tri-Wall Site – This is one of the few tri-wall structures in the Southwest.
  • The Tunnel – This is what I call a hallway that’s long and cool with a great breeze. I felt like I was in a cave, and loved it.

The Aztec Ruins are a UNESCO Word Heritage site, and well worth a visit.

Have you been here? What would you like to tell my reader about this location?

Have Fun,
Jeff

P.S. Another great thing to do in the Aztec area is to go in search of sandstone arches. There are over 400 arches of all sizes around Aztec. You can pick up a brochure in various places that gives directions to seven areas that have arches, and go here too http://aztecnm.com/Arches/. We went to the Pilares Canyon area in a passenger car with no problem, but be careful as there are patches of sand on the dirt road where you could get stuck. While in Pilares Canyon we also found petroglyphs. I love to discover and photograph them.

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One of the arches.

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