Lomaki is the northernmost pueblo in Wupatki National Monument. You will pass the Box Canyon dwellings on your left, bearing to the right on a curving pathway to the ruined Lamanite pueblo in the distance.
Aside from the historical value and the imaginative opportunities, this is a beautiful and relaxing loop drive.
Wukoki is readily accessible to modern Man, but it is easy to imagine yourself an ancient inhabitant of this remote fiefdom, isolated in a hostile land, alert for enemies, secure in this citadel of red stone, a world unto yourselves.
All the pueblos in Wupatki Monument are unique, varied in both setting and conception. For some reason, Wukoki is my very favorite of them all!
12 miles north of Flagstaff on U.S. 89 is the entrance to the loop drive from Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument to Wupatki National Monument. Wupatki is at the northern end of the loop. You could drive north on 89 and start the loop at Wupatki, but something tells me that would be anticlimatic and not nearly as wonderful.
Next to The Citadel site is this marker. The plaque reads: A Village
You are entering the “Citadel,” a ruin from the late 1100s. Research has not been completed so it is important that we leave things as they are. Will there be extra storage spaces found, possible evidence for the defense theory? We do know this is one of the larger pueblos in Wupatki National Monument and could have been the home for many families. You are welcome to speculate about what will be found here, as we do.
What happened? Exact reasons are hard to prove, but we know the climate here was variable, with good and bad times. Extended droughts effected many abandonments in the Southwest, probably including this one. By 1250 this area was abandoned and quiet. The families moved on in patterns we still don’t understand, but almost certainly descendants of the people who built these houses are among the Pueblo Indians living in the Southwest.
Next to The Citadel site is this marker and it reads: Farming then did not mean vast fields like we use today. Anasazi and Sinagua people modified these small terraces to grow hand-tended corn, cotton, beans, and squash. We know the climate was about what it is now, very dry for farming. The terraces caught vital run-off from rain.
Behind you are rock circles that appear to be ruins of individual, separate rooms. These are common, but we do not know what they were used for.
The plaque reads: Volcanic activity to the south produced giant fissures or earth cracks throughout the Wupatki area in the Kaibab Limestone. This formation covers most of the western half of Wupatki National Monument. The Sinagua and Anasazi Indians who inhabited these ancient pueblos probably found the earthcracks to be the most productive farming sites. There is no evidence of streams close by which could be used for water. All of the farming was dependent on the rainfall.
Corn, squash and other crops were planted along the canyon slopes and wash bottoms. Small check dams along the drainage courses provided level areas for farming. These flat areas retained more moisture and the accumulated slit enriched the soil. The bottom of Box Canyon, below the ruins, may have been an ideal area for farming.
Juniper, amaranth, yucca, Indian rice grass and other native plants were used as food, along with antelope, rabbit, squirrels, packrats and reptiles name a few.
At each of the historic sites are plaques with educational information of the area. The plaque reads: Eight hundred years ago, a savannah-like grassland covered much of this high desert with abundant grasses. The residents would have collected and burned much of the nearby fuel, necessitating long walks to adjacent areas to gather wood. Sparse annual rainfall forced the inhabitants to catch and save as much water as they could, or walk miles to other sources.
Since the use of the area by modern ranchers, the land has undergone other dramatic changes. Cattle grazing stripped much of the native vegetation away, allowing other plants, such as rabbitbrush, saltbush and snakeweed to dominate the vegetation. Although Wupatki National Monument was established in 1924, grazing continued until 1989, ending with the completion of a fence around the monument boundary.
The distant San Francisco Peaks would have looked much like they do today. To the east, however, Sunset Crater Volcano would still have been belching black smoke and cinders when the Sinagua and Anaszi lived here. The thick layer of cinders over the sandy soil helped hold moisture, which was beneficial to the growing of crops.
Eventually, even Sunset Crater Volcano grew quiet, and the winds blew the cinders away and dried out the soil.
Why the Lomaki residents departed is not certain. There are indications of disease affecting the population, or a lengthy drought creating a landscape barren of vegetation, animals and firewood. Or invading hostile tribes may have contributed to the abandonment of this area by the mid-1200s.
An open area in the pueblo near the rim of the earthcrack is known as the plaza. In pueblos, the plaza was the center for many daily activities including grinding corn, making pottery, working obsidian into arrowheads, processing other plants for food, and cooking. It would have also been used for meetings, conducting trade, and as a controlled play area for children. During the warmer months, the plaza received extensive use from dawn until after dusk; rooms inside the pueblo were used only for sleeping and some cooking.
Water At the bottom of the earthcrack is a prehistoric check dam that contained the frequent run-off. The inhabitants of the pueblo also placed numerous pottery jars at the base of overhangs to catch rainwater. When the rain did not come, they had to walk ten miles to the Little Colorado River drainage to fill their pottery jars.
The Box Canyon ruins are typical of many pueblos found in this region. Early inhabitants constructed walls of nearby sandstone and limestone, and used local soils to cement the stones together. The flat roofs were built of timbers laid side-by-side, covered with smaller branches and finally plastered over with mud.
Smoke was vented from the rooms through a square hole in the ceiling, which frequently served as the only access to the room. Doorways were small and windows almost non-existent. As the rooms were abandoned, the timbers were often scavenged and used in other pueblos or burned as firewood, a precious commodity in this environment.
As you look at these ruins today, they appear just as they did when discovered in the late 1800s. The National Park Service has stabilized the walls to help preserve them. None are reconstructed. These 800-year-old walls are fragile and easily disturbed. Do Not walk or climb on them.
It was a remarkable achievement, to use primitive mortar and local stones to build the walls above you straight up from the edge of the top of the rock. “The Citadel” is the modern name given to this ruin because of its location, but archeologists wonder why the Anasazi often built in high, hard-to-get-at places. Some theories say it was defensive. Others say it was to avoid building on croplands, or for sun and breeze. Or was it more simple? Today we often build on hilltops because it is dramatic and beautiful.
The large circular “sink” behind you is a natural depression that occurs in limestone. Sinks are caused by a crack system that allows rainwater to dissolved limestone and collapse anything above it. They do not hold water. Beyond the sink rise the San Francisco Peaks. These volcanic mountains are the highest point in Arizona. Modern day Hopi and Navajo people consider these mountains sacred.
Nalakihu - A modern Hopi name, "House Outside the Village"
Farmers lived here about 800 years ago. (Roof beams gave tree ring dates in the late 1100s.) The way the walls join show this small pueblo was not built all at once, but was added onto. Roof remains indicated parts were two stories high. The pottery seems the same as that from the large ruin on the rock ahead, so these pueblos may have been lived in at the same time.
You may enter the rooms, but remember, old walls are fragile, even when we have strengthened them. Don't hurt the ruins or yourself. This is a National Park area preserved for visitors and for scientific investigation. Please treat it carefully.
You can purchase a trail guide within the visitor center for just $1.00. This is the largest pueblo within the park.
Between 1100 and 1200, more people lived in this area than ever before, or since. Located along routes linking large populations to the northeast and south, villages here were well situated for trade. As people, goods, and ideas converged on the area, a complex society of several thousand evolved. This particular village became the heart of a thriving community and was a landmark, a gathering place, and a ceremonial center.
It is remarkable that this land, so dry and hot, supported a large farming community. Moisture conserving cinders from the eruption of nearby Sunset Crater Volcano made for slightly better farming conditions during the 1100s. But extensive land and labor would have been required. This monumental structure may have signaled control over farm lands and united a community that undoubtedly changed as it grew and accepted immigrants.
Historical accounts of Pueblo life and archeological evidence are the basis for this depiction of life here 900 years ago. It is an embellished interpretation through modern eyes but helps us visualize the vibrant society that was Wupatki. Hopi and Zuni oral histories say this was a place where people of diverse origins came together.
Varying influences are apparent. The plain red-brown pottery came from the area near modern day Flagstaff, while the painted black and white pots came from Kayenta country to the northeast. The architecture is both Chacoan and Kayenta in style, and the ballcourt and abundant shell jewelry indicate ties to the far south.
Through trade, villagers acquired numerous Mesoamerican scarlet macaws and copper bells needed for ceremonies and rituals. In return, perhaps they offered their expertly woven cotton textiles. Weavers may have immigrated from different places as their styles and decorative techniques reflect those from various Southwest areas
Villagers shared walls, water, food, protection, and prayer. Like us, they depended on one another, celebrated life and marked passages, planned for, reacted, and adapted to environmental and social circumstances.
On this day, the community has gathered to celebrate the harvest and honor their lifeways. Women prepare food for a feast; men and boys engage in contest in the ballcourt. Later, there will be ceremonies. Rituals help establish harmony and encourage rain and fertility.
Their way of living was key to survival in this challenging land. For more than 100 years, people thrived here, farming one of the warmest and driest places on the Colorado Plateau. Skill at growing crops under difficult conditions and willingness to endure hardship allowed people to persist where many would not.
Their descendants, the Hopi, Zuni, and other Pueblo groups, still adhere to a lifeway that values hard work and spiritual life over material possessions.
The location, height, and size (100 rooms) of this village, along with its public spaces — a ceremonial ballcourt (shown above), large plaza (not in view), and community room (left) — suggest it was not a typical househould but rather an important meeting place. It had no equal in the region.
Most people lived in numerous small dwellings found for miles around; those living here may have held ritual and leadership responsibilities.
Descendants say prophecy and beliefs guided decisions and that villages like this were purposefully settled and left. When clans departed, doorways were scaled and items left in rooms; maybe people hoped to return one day. The reasons for leaving were likely varied. By the 1200s the area was denuded of trees and shrubs and soils were depleted. As the environment changed, perhaps conflicts increased or trade networks shifted and other villages had more to offer.
Visitor centers are always a wealth of information with wonderful friendly staff to help, a great gift/books store and some really educational displays available too. One of the welcoming rangers offer me a Wupatki Pueblo Trail Guide to use free while exploring the Wupatki Pueblo and if I like it I could buy it for only $1.00. I bought anyways just for the wonderful information.
This is a very unique pueblo because you can walk within it safely and crawl or crouch into the others rooms. Be careful though of snakes! There is a trail that takes you all around the pueblo too, so make sure to check it out!
Wukoki, a modern Hopi word for “Big House” was once home for two or three prehistoric Indian families. The inhabitants are believed to have been of the Kayenta Anasazi culture, judging from the types of artifacts found during excavation and stabilization. This site, occupied from approximately 1120-1210 A.D. afforded its occupants a commanding view of the surrounding terrain. The unusual three-story height, combined with its position atop this Moenkopi Sandstone outcrop, lends credence to the theory that this may have been one of several central or “focal” sites for the Anasazi Sinaguan People. It is visible from a great distance and from many perspectives in this area.
Three rooms are obvious today. Others were probably present during the period of occupation. A plaza area on the Southern side of the flat sandstone surface was likely used for daily activities such as food preparation, pottery-making, and may also have been an area for children to play. During mild weather it must have been a much more inviting place than the dark rooms of the pueblo.
The whole picture of this prehistoric community can only be completed with your assistance. Please leave the pottery sherds and other artifact where they are found. Do not deface the sandstone boulders and walls in any way. These are invaluable to archeologists who continue to study the ruins. Stay on marked tails to help preserve and protect this landscape, and the ancient ruins, for the enjoyment and education of future generations.
The Nalakihu and Citadel pueblos are located a couple of miles east of Wupatki pueblo but still within the National Monument. In the background you can see the volcanic outcropping that forms the backdrop for Lomaki pueblo.
As with Tuzigoot National Monument, I can imagine a very pleasant life in these ancient pueblos with beautiful vistas and other nearby communities.