The pueblos at Wupatki are like no other. Wupatki was the tallest, largest, and one of the most influential pueblo in the area. During its peak in 1180 A.D., about 100 people lived in the Wupatki Pueblo, with thousands living within a day’s walk.
When Sunset Crater erupted in 1064 A.D., it forced communities that lived near the volcano to move north. As they moved north, they realized that the cinders that covered the grounds north of the volcano provided excellent planting conditions. As they moved, some of the small, spread out houses began to be replaced by large pueblos. These pueblos, Wupatki, Wukoki, Lomaki and the Citadel to name a few, were surrounded by smaller pueblos and villages. Trade networks expanded bringing all sorts of exotic items such as shells, turquoise and copper to Wupatki.
Life at Wupatki was very culturally mixed. Wupatki was at the crossroads of the Sinagua, Cohonina, and Kayenta Anasazi Indians. This mix of people can be seen in the artifacts, trade items, and even in the pueblos themselves.
Informational pamphlet from Wupatki National Monument
Nakikuhu in the foreground and the Citadel in the background
Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument
By 1250 A.D., Sunset Crater quieted and those living at Wupatki moved on, some going north to the Colorado Plateau, while some stayed there and others moved south. Descendants of those living at Wupatki include the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo Indians.
The people of Wupatki started as hunter gatherers progressed to farmers, and more recently have become rangers and herders. It is still unknown whether it was many different types of Native American’s that lived there, or if it was just Sinagua Indians living in different ways under different influences. Evidence from the pueblos can support either conclusion.
The Wupatki Pueblo, located by the visitor’s center, was the largest pueblo and held about 100 people. It was the center for trade and ceremonial affairs. Wukoki, located east of Wupatki is Hopi for “Big House”. It was inhabited from about 1120 to 1210 A.D. It held about three families and is considered the best preserved in Wupatki National Monument. The 3-story castle like structure had a great view of the surrounding terrain and had a plaza area. Nakikuhu, Hopi for “House outside the village” sits just below the Citadel and was built around 1100. It had about 30 rooms. The Citadel pueblo was a fortress like structure that was built atop a high hill. It is in a great defense position and offers a commanding view of the surrounding lands. Finally there is, Lomaki pueblo meaning “Beautiful House”. It’s literally just that.
The Wupatki Pueblos were discovered by John Wesley Powell and was made a National Monument in 1930. To get to Wupatki, drive north of Flagstaff and take the Sunset Crater- Wupatki Loop Road. Consider also visiting Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument on this same trip because it is included free when you pay for admission. It’s definitely well worth seeing both National Monuments. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/wupa.