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     Aztec stood midway between two centers of Ancestral Pueblo culture. Fifty-five miles to the south lay Chaco, a sprawling community of large sites that flourished between 1050 and 1150. The builders at Aztec, if not actually Chacoans, were strongly influenced by Chacoan ideas in matters such as architecture, ceramics, and ceremonial life. The first inhabitants built a variety of structures and laid the foundations for others. Their community flourished as a regional trade, ceremonial, and administrative center for nearly half a century.
     A few decades later the site saw renewed construction and use by Ancestral Puebloans once again. These people were culturally akin to the people of Mesa Verde, the rugged mesa country 40 miles northwest. This second group remodeled buildings and completed others begun earlier, largely retaining the original building plans, but using masonry techniques and building styles characteristic of Mesa Verde. They, like their predecessors, used the are for a few generations and moved on, leaving behind well-preserved structures that tell of their lives in this regions. Today many Southwestern Indians are their descendants, maintaining strong cultural and spiritual ties to this site.
     Included in the Aztec community were several multi-story buildings called "great houses," small residential pueblos, tri-wall kivas, great kivas, road segments, middens, and earthworks - all packed into a strip of land barely two miles long and one mile wide. The West Ruin, the excavated great house that visitors can tour, had at least 400 interconnected rooms built around an open plaza. Its stone walls tower over 30 feet; several rooms contain the original wood materials placed in its roofs by the builders. These roofed rooms protected large deposits of artifacts that hint at the lives of its users - bone, stone, and wood tools; food remnants; clothing; jewelry; pottery; building materials; and discarded items.
     The site - with its links to people today, and its well-preserved artifacts and buildings - offers visitors opportunities to connect with the past and to contemplate an enduring Pueblo heritage.

Aztec Ruins National Monument is located about ¾ mile north of U.S. Hwy 516, just outside the town of Aztec, New Mexico.
Text from
National Park Service Aztec Ruins Official Map and Guide
(GPO:2001-472-470/40077 Reprint 1989).

     Completed in about A.D. 1115, the 400-room West Ruin pueblo with its D-shaped floor plan and twelve kivas has all of the classic features of a Chacoan great house. It is the third largest of all Chacoan great houses, and its reconstructed great kiva is among the biggest in the northern region. A segment of Chacoan road has been documented for the Aztec complex, and there are numerous small house sites in the area. The Aztec complex played an important role during the last stages of the Chaco Phenomenon. Some archeologists believe the community may have become the center of the Chacoan system as Chaco Canyon was abandoned in the mid-1100s. It flourished for more than a century but was abandoned about 1275.
Text and Ruins Map to the left from The Chaco Handbook - An Encyclopedic Guide
Vivian & Hilpert 2002.