Abo and Quarai Ruins of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in New Mexico
and the Sinagua Pueblos of Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot in Verde Valley, Arizona
are detailed on this page. The Abo and Quarai Ruins are Missions built near existing
pueblos by Franciscans in the 1600s. Montezuma Castle is a cliff dwelling built in
the limestone cliff by the Sinagua people c. 1125 AD (occupied until c. 1400).
Tuzigoot is a Sinagua pueblo ruin, built and occupied in the same period.

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Salinas Pueblo Missions

Near the Rio Grande in New Mexico are remains of early Pueblo Missions.
Tiwa and Tompiro Indians had been living in the area for thousands of years
when the Spanish arrived with missionaries in the early 17th century and found
the Indians the perfect subjects for their efforts. Pueblo Missions were built at
Gran Quivira, Quarai, and Abó (seen below). The entire area was abandoned
by the 1670s, due to a devastating drought, a typical cycle in the Southwest.


Abo Mission Salinas Pueblo X9440
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The Mission and Convento of San Gregorio de Abo was built 1622-29 of red sandstone.
The pueblo at Abo was a thriving trading community by the time the Spaniards arrived with
the Franciscan Missionaries to ‘civilize the natives’. The Tompiro Pueblo Indians had been
living in the area since the early 12th century, having descended from the earlier Mogollon
and Anasazi cultures. When the Spanish arrived, the Franciscans built their Missions, but
after only 50 years both Pueblo and Mission were abandoned when drought, disease,
famines and Apache uprisings caused both Spanish and Indians to leave (1670s).

Paleo-Indians arrived in the Salinas Valley over 12,000 years ago. They were followed by
Anasazi and Mogollon cultures with Archaic and Basketmaker Culture roots going back over
7000 years. The Anasazi and Mogollon cultures merged in the Salinas Valley to produce the
later societies of Abo, Quarai and Gran Quivira. Tompiro and Tiwa-speaking Pueblo Indian
people migrated into the area from the Rio Grande and spurred the growth of settlements.
By the 10th c., large Mogollon villages existed, and by the late 12th c. the migration of the
Anasazi people leaving the drought on the Colorado Plateau assimilated the Mogollon.


Abo Mission Salinas Pueblo X9441
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A view along the outside wall of the Residential Cells to the Church.

Originally, the Franciscans built a small church and convento in 1622-29.
The church was rebuilt in 1645-52 using advanced buttressing techniques.
Abo and Quarai preserve two of the best structural records of the 17th century
Franciscan building techniques and workmanship on the Northern Frontier. They
are the finest surviving examples of wall and lintel technology (construction based on
vertical walls and beam-supported flat roofs). The method used both corbels as bearing
plate timbers and Vigas (beams) to support the roof. Wooden gutters drained the roof.

The Salinas Valley became a major trade center and was one of the most populous
parts of the Pueblo world, with the stone and adobe homes of the Anasazi forming the
Pueblo architecture that was encountered by the Spanish in the 17th century. Anasazi
culture was dominant by 1300, although it was not quite as developed as it was in the
northern settlements. They had developed weaving, basket-making and pottery to a
fine art (which impressed the Spaniards when they arrived). The Salinas people
had borrowed black-on-white pottery techniques from the Rio Grande Pueblos.

The Spaniards were drawn north by tales of the rich land of Quivira. Coronado’s
1540 expedition failed to find it, and in 1598 a permanent colony was established in
New Mexico by Juan de Onate. He also failed to find the wealth he desired, and tried
to extract a tribute from the Indians, which damaged the relationship. Then the Pope
told the Spaniards to Christianize the natives of the New World. The King of Spain
decided to maintain the colony at his own expense mainly as a missionary effort.


Abo Mission Church Salinas Pueblo X9446
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A view over the wall of the Porteria (reception room) towards the Choir Loft and Sacristy in front and the Nave in the rear.


Abo Mission Church Salinas Pueblo X9448
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A view over the wall of the Nave (foreground left) towards
the Chapels. Beyond the far wall is the Sanctuary and Altar.


Abo Mission Church Salinas Pueblo X9447
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The room in the center foreground is one of the Side Chapels. Notice the different
look of the masonry of the foreground structure compared with that in the background.
The original church Sanctuary and Altar were located between the Side Chapels. It was
extended 50 feet during the construction of the second church, demolishing the original
Sanctuary and Altar, adding on Transepts and Collaterals (side altars), the Sanctuary and
Altar, and extending the Sacristy and Sacristy Altar to the back wall of the new Sanctuary.


Abo Mission Convento Salinas Pueblo X9449
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The Ambulatorio wall (left), entrance to the Sacristy (center), and part of the Convento (the priest’s home, at right).


Abo Mission Ambulatorio Salinas Pueblo X9452
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On the opposite side of the wall is the Ambulatorio, a roofed hallway surrounding the Patio (with the Kiva, shown below).

While the Spaniards did introduce wheat, fruit trees, cattle and sheep, goats and
other things that enhanced life, their slave raids on the Apache (with Pueblo Indians
along for support) caused the Apache to relinquish their trading status with the Pueblos
and start raiding instead. The Pueblos were also hit with drought and famine in 1660-70
that killed hundreds of people. In the 1670s, the Pueblos were abandoned, the people all
left to live with relatives elsewhere, and finally in 1680 the Spanish were forcibly expelled
from New Mexico by a revolt of the Pueblos north of Salinas, including Taos Pueblo.


Abo Mission Kiva Salinas Pueblo X9453
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The central Patio with the Kiva in the foreground, and
the entrances to the Choir Loft and Sacristy Storeroom.

The Kiva-like structure was built on a platform centered in the patio during
the early phase of the construction of the first Church as the Franciscans wanted
to provide a transition for the Pueblo people from their religion to the church. Later, the
Franciscans smashed their Kachina masks, filling the Kiva with trash from the kitchen dump.

The desecration of Kivas and the destruction of sacred artifacts by Franciscan missionaries
was a primary cause of the Pueblo Revolt (1680), along with a drought in the region which
caused famines and provoked increased raids and attacks from nomadic tribes that the
Spaniards were unable to thwart. The Pueblo people became dissatisfied with the
promised protection of the Spanish and their religion, and returned to the old
religions, provoking repression by the Franciscans missionaries who in
1659-60 forbade Kachina dances and seized sacred artifacts (such
as masks, prayer sticks, effigies, etc.) and burned them. Officials
who attempted to aid the Indians, prevent the Franciscans from
punishing them for ‘religious infractions’, or stop desecrations
were arrested by the Franciscans and handed over to officials
of the Spanish Inquisition, charged with Heresy (or worse). The
Governor (Lopez de Mendizabal), the Mayor of the Salinas region
(Nicholas de Aguilar) and others were handed over and convicted by
the Inquisition in Mexico City. The convictions stopped local officials who
may have otherwise helped the Indians against the Franciscans. Later, the
new Governor ordered the arrest of 47 medicine men, accused of witchcraft.
Four were sentenced to death, the others were publicly whipped, imprisoned in
Santa Fe, and sentenced to be sold into slavery. When this news reached the
Pueblo leaders, they moved in force to Sante Fe and forced the Governor
to release the prisoners (the Spanish army was away fighting Apaches).
One of the medicine men released was Po’pay (Popé), who went to
Taos Pueblo and planned a successful revolt which expelled the
Spaniards, during which they killed 21 of the 33 Franciscans.

I hope you enjoyed the pot-shaped historical interlude.


Abo Mission Kiva Salinas Pueblo X9454
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The Ambulatorio (left) leads to the entrance to the Choir Loft (left center) and the
Sacristy Storeroom and entrance (center). At right is the Patio and Kiva (foreground)
and the Sacristy wall (background). The Nave is in the background to the left and center.

The Kiva was constructed with firepits, a deflector, a ventilation shaft and four roof posts, in
much the same manner as traditional Kivas, but with a roof height of 7 feet, more like a roof
 of a Spanish structure than that of a traditional Kiva. More information and images of Kivas
are in the Chaco Canyon section (esp. the Chetro Ketl page) and the Mesa Verde page.


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The Banner below leads to the Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 14 Sections in the Photoshelter Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection

Direct Links to images from this page:

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Quarai Mission

Quarai Pueblo was inhabited by Tiwa Puebloans, who numbered 400-600 people in 1598
when the Spanish arrived. Misión de la Nuestra Señora de Purísima Concepción de Cuarac
was constructed of red sandstone between 1627-1674, when the area was abandoned.
 It served as the ecclesiastic headquarters for the Spanish Inquisition in New Mexico.


Quarai Mission Salinas Pueblo X9458
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The Franciscan Mission Church at the Pueblo of Quarai.
This is the best preserved and most complete of the Salinas ruins.
It was built on a mound of Pueblo ruins near the corner of the Quarai Pueblo
beginning in 1627, when the mound was leveled by building retaining walls at the
edges of the mound, then filling and leveling the area within the retaining walls.
The Convento was completed first (by 1630), but the immense amount of
stonework required for the Church required three more years of labor.

The holes in the wall between the window and door (on the right) are floor joist sockets
for the porch extending along the front. On the inside they held the floor joists for the choir loft.
The Mission was built like a fortress and acted as a buffer between the Pueblo and the Apache
Plains Indians, who tended to raid the Pueblos (as detailed earlier) due to Puebloan involvement
in the numerous Spanish slave raids on the Apache villages. The walls were four to four and a half
feet thick (relatively thin for their height), but were reinforced by tower buttresses at the corners.


Quarai Mission Salinas Pueblo X9456
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South facade of Nuestra Señora de Purísima Concepción de Cuarac (Cuarac is the old name for Quarai). The ‘window’ opening above the entrance was actually a door from the Choir Loft to a porch over the main door which was supported by the floor joists in the holes over the main entrance. These joists continued through the wall to support the Choir Loft.


Quarai Mission Salinas Pueblo X9468
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Note that the wall of the Transept (at the rear) is higher than the wall of the Nave. This allowed for a clerestory window that extended across the width of the church in the wall over the point where the transepts cross the nave, illuminating the altar.


Quarai Mission Nave Transept and Apse
Salinas Pueblo X9462

(339 KB)

The flagstone floor of the Nave, the West Transept and Apse. High on the West wall is a window, which was later filled in when the Friars found that it allowed a strong breeze to flow through the Church. The vertical holes in the walls supported the Vigas (beams) which held up the roofs of the Nave and Transepts. The holes are rectangular because the beams were supported by corbels as bearing plate timbers.


Quarai Mission East Transept
Salinas Pueblo X9464

(395 KB)

The East Transept tower (center left) and the Transept (left). The holes are for the Vigas and corbels which supported the roofs. Note the difference in height of the Transept roof and the Nave roof as indicated by the heights of the Viga holes. This space was used for the clerestory window extending across the entire width of the Nave. Each of the two Transepts held a small altar, the main altar was in the Apse.


Quarai Mission Convento Salinas Pueblo X9466
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The South wall of the Convento, with the South Facade in the background (top left).
Behind this long South wall are the residence hall of the friary with its cells. Just out
of the picture at right is the entrance to the long hallway which leads past the cells.
The entrance seen down the wall just before the facade tower led into a Porteria
which itself led to the Ambulatorio and the central patio with its square “Kiva”.


Quarai Mission Salinas Pueblo X9470
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The Mission at Quarai and the mound of the Old Pueblo of Quarai at the left,
with partially excavated walls visible at the top of the mound at the left center.
At the lower right is the foundation of a church begun by settlers in 1829 and
never finished. It stands at the head of Mound J, part of an earlier house block
from an older part of the Quarai Pueblo which was inhabited from 1300-1350.



Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 14 Sections in the Photoshelter Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection

Direct Links to images from this page:

New Mexico Pueblos & Bandelier
Canyon de Chelly & AZ Sinagua Sites

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Montezuma Castle

The Sinagua people of Arizona (the name means “without water”) built cliff dwellings in the
Verde Valley near Prescott, AZ. The most spectacular of these is called Montezuma Castle.
 Neither a Castle nor having anything to do with Montezuma or the Aztec Empire, the structure was
misnamed by European Americans who found the cliff dwelling in the 1860s. The Sinagua ‘high rise’
was built into a hollowed-out alcove in the limestone cliffs between 1100 and 1425 AD. Montezuma Castle
is one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in North America, primarily because it has had limited disturbance
 since it was abandoned (having been protected by the Hopi). It was seen in 1583 and 1598 by two Spanish
expeditions which were looking for mining opportunities, and was later ‘discovered’ by the miners in the
 1860s who gave it its colorful but inaccurate name because at the time, many people thought that the
Southwest had been colonized by the Aztecs or Toltecs from the South. Montezuma Castle has
 been closed to the public since 1951 due to damage caused by tens of thousands of visitors.


Montezuma Castle X0087
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Montezuma Castle is one of the finest examples of prehistoric architecture in the Southwest, built into a hollowed-out alcove in the limestone cliffs from 1100 AD by the Southern Sinagua, who lived in central Arizona between 500 and 1425 AD.


Montezuma Castle X0091
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The ‘high-rise apartment’ dwelling is five stories and contains over 20 rooms. It is thought to have housed about 50 people. It overlooks the fertile fields which were irrigated by the systems left in place by the previous Hohokam residents of the valley.


Montezuma Castle X0089
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The only way up into the cliff dwelling was via ladders or by climbing the cliff, which provided
the inhabitants with a natural defense against enemy tribes. The structure is a composite of
a rear section (the older of the two sections, three stories tall) and a front section which is
three stories tall, the third story of which is a single front room in front of the lowest central
room of the rear section. The total complex is five stories tall, with 21 rooms including the
three cavates (hollowed-out cave-rooms), plus a Plaza and a Parapet in the rear section.


Montezuma Castle X0093
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There are some cavates (hollowed out rooms) in the cliff face below the main dwelling (two large ones are at right center).


Montezuma Castle X0096
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Montezuma Castle was one of the four original National
Monuments designated by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.



The Sinagua people who farmed the Verde Valley 20 miles northwest of Montezuma Castle
built a multi-story Pueblo atop a limestone spine near the Verde River. Tuzigoot is Apache for
‘Crooked Water’, referring to the oxbow of Peck’s Lake, a cutoff meander of the Verde River.
The two to three story pueblo had 110 rooms, the first of which was built in about 1000 AD.


Tuzigoot Sinagua Pueblo X0210
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The North Central rooms of Tuzigoot overlooked by the Citadel (tower room).

200 pottery vessels were recovered from the ruins, which were excavated
between 1933 and 1934 by Louis Caywood and Edward Spicer from the
University of Arizona with funding from the CWA and WPA, two federal
work projects during the Great Depression. The pottery was similar to
Jeddito black-on-yellow from the Hopi Pueblo IV period, and it was
reassembled over a two year period and called Tuzigoot Ware.
Many pieces and other artifacts are displayed in the museum.


Tuzigoot Sinagua Pueblo X0211
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A firewall protecting a cooking area in one of the North Central rooms at Tuzigoot.
The Citadel (the tallest part of the structure at top left) was used as a watchtower and a
public space. It was restored by the National Park Service, and offers a spectacular view.

An estimated 250 inhabitants lived in Tuzigoot. The standard of living provided by the lush
marshlands and the proximity to the river allowed excellent hunting and farming, but even with
the abundance of resources, life expectancy was 40 years and infant mortality was high. Over
170 infant burials were unearthed during the excavations, buried beneath floors of the rooms.


Tuzigoot Sinagua Pueblo X0213
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North Central rooms and the Tuzigoot Citadel (tower room).

The walls, when originally reconstructed, were built with mortar mix containing cement as was often done in the early 20th c., but as was pointed out by Dean Cummings of the Advisory Committee, the erosion patterns would be different, the clay pointing would crack, and the walls would have to be rebuilt. His predictions came true... when the NPS took over they had to completely rebuild the walls.


Tuzigoot Sinagua Pueblo X0222
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A metate (a mealing stone for grinding corn) stands within
an upper level room in the North Central block of Tuzigoot.

In July 1939, President Roosevelt established Tuzigoot as the 27th National Monument under the National Park Service. The rebuilding of the walls began nearly immediately, as each rain caused cave-ins which revealed bones of children. The early superintendent actually had one covered with a glass plate and exposed the burial as an exhibit for the visitors.


Tuzigoot Metate Citadel X0217
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Metate (mealing stone) within a Central room (detail at right). The walls are limestone and river rock, with adobe mortar.


Tuzigoot Metate Walls X0216c
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Detail of the Metate in the Central room. The exterior mortar surfaces were hardened with a linseed oil mixture.


Tuzigoot Metate X0214
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Another Metate (mealing stone) with a Mano (hand-held
grinding stone) used to grind corn placed in the Metate.


Tuzigoot Metate X0214c
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Detail of the Metate and Mano. A repetitive horizontal grinding motion was used to create corn meal.


Tuzigoot Sinagua Pueblo X0218
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Southern rooms as viewed from atop the Citadel, with a view of Mingus Mountain
to the West (far right), the Tavasci Marsh, and the Verde Valley to the Southwest.


Tuzigoot Sinagua Pueblo X0220
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The most dramatic angle of the Southern rooms at Tuzigoot from atop the Citadel (tower room).

The Sinagua left Tuzigoot in about 1400 AD. Several Hopi clans trace their ancestry to the
Southern Sinagua from the Verde Valley, and believe they left the valley for religious reasons.


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 14 Sections in the Photoshelter Indian Lands & Anasazi Sites Collection

Direct Links to images from this page:

New Mexico Pueblos & Bandelier
Canyon de Chelly & AZ Sinagua Sites

Indian Lands Select
(150 Selected images)


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Taos Pueblo page.


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