On our way from Albuquerque to Mesa Verde National Park, we needed a place to stop for lunch. In looking at the map, we saw several possible small towns on the way. But then we spotted Aztec, NM, and Aztec Ruins NM just on the north side of the town, so we decided to go there and hope they had a picnic area.
They had a picnic area and a lot more.
Despite the name, it had noting to do with Aztecs but only that it was located near the town of Aztec. It was a city ruin more like Chaco Canyon, which we didn't try to see since we would have had to haul the trailer down a long dirt road. It was occupied from the late 1000's to the late 1200's, right around the time that Chaco Canyon was waning. The people here are called Pueblo people.
Only one part of the ruins has been excavated: the West Ruin. It was the work of Earl Morris, who took charge of excavation and rebuilding the Great Kiva. The Great Kiva was rebuilt to look like they believed it did when originally built. The surrounding village is largely excavated but not rebuilt, but only stabilized so we have a chance to see what it was like. The three story building had over 500 rooms and many kivas including the great kiva.
Like many of the pueblos in the southwest, no one knows why the people came and then went. Their ancestors still live in the area (the southwest) but little is known about the coming and going. We are fortunate that we have pueblos like this, and Chaco Canyon, and Mesa Verde and others, that we can visit to get a feel for what happened here a thousand years ago.