While Indiana Jones was a bit sketchy in his work as an archaeologist—he did, after all, regularly steal and destroy ancient artifacts and sites—there is no doubt that he made an otherwise mundane profession seem exciting. If somewhere inside you is an Indiana Jones wanting to explore ancient sites, here are a few Arizona ruins to get you started. However, unlike Indy, be sure to exercise caution and respect for the people who once inhabited these areas: Stay on designated paths and do not take anything from the area.
1. Besh Ba Gowah
Found near Globe, Besh-ba-Gowah was one of many settlements for the Salado people dating to approximately 1200 AD. The ruins are some of the largest found in the state with an estimated 400 rooms, however, portions of the ruins were bulldozed for construction projects between the 1940s and 1980s. Today, the ruins are partially restored and a museum and bookstore exist at the site to provide more information about the ruins and the people who lived there.
One of three Anasazi ruins sitting in Navajo National Monument, the name Betatakin (anglicized from the Navajo Bitát'ahkin) is a direct reference to its location along the cliff. It is one of the smaller ruins at the monument and at one point had approximately 120 rooms, although only 80 remain today due to erosion.
3. Casa Grande
Another national monument, Casa Grande is the namesake for the city it resides in. The ruins were home to the Hohokam until about the mid 15th century. The name refers to the largest of the structures in the area and the ruins underwent a restoration process in the 1890s. A large roof structure was erected over the ruins in 1932 in an effort to preserve the restoration and what's left.
4. Casa Malpais
At first glance, not much seems to exist in this area near Springerville in eastern Arizona. But once you begin walking through the archaeological site and historic landmark, you will find evidence of the people who once inhabited this area sometime between 1260 and 1400. One of the interesting points about Casa Malpais is that it is located in one of the largest volcanic fields in the country and its builders took advantage of the volcanic rocks and fissures during construction.
5. Keet Seel
The other ruin site open to visitors at Navajo National Monument, people inhabited Keet Seel for a short time starting in approximately 1250AD. The area is incredibly photogenic as it sits within a shallow hole in the canyon walls, allowing the ruins to be one of best preserved in the Southwest.
6. Montezuma Castle
One of the more famous ruins in the state, Montezuma Castle originally received its name under the American presumption that it was somehow related to the Aztec ruler, Montezuma, even though it was abandoned decades before his birth. Instead, the ruins were once home to the Sinagua peoples and was built high up to avoid the flooding along Beaver Creek in the Verde Valley. At one point, visitors were allowed inside the ruins but that was discontinued in the 1950s in order to preserve what's left of the structure.
Another home for the Sinagua people near Sedona, the Palatki Ruins are known for their vibrant red colored structures that blend in with the landscape. At one point these ruins were well-preserved but heavy visitation and theft by settlers in the 19th and early 20th centuries caused major degradation to the area.
8. Pueblo Grande
Sitting in the middle of a major metropolitan area, the Pueblo Grande ruins are some of the oldest you will find here in the state. The earliest suggested date for Hohokam settlement began in 450 AD and lasted roughly 1, 000 years. While the archaeological site contains several reconstructed homes, it also features the remains of a ball court and mound.
Sitting outside of Clarkdale, Tuzigoot was once home to the Sinagua and dates to about 1125 AD. The site had 110 rooms and is considered one of the better preserved ruins for the Sinagua people. One interesting fact about this and other sites is that in place of regular doors, a trap door on the roof connected to a ladder led people down into individual rooms.
10. Walnut Canyon Ruins
These cliff dwellings are situated between recesses in the canyon walls and construction began between 1100 and 1125 AD. These homes blended well in the canyon and today can be seen by hiking a marked trail through the park.
11. White House
Located down inside Canyon de Chelly, White House ruin were inhabited by the Anasazi around 1200 AD. Today, you can access the area (but not the ruin itself) on a self-guided trail that leads down into the canyon.
Found within a short drive of Sunset Crater, Wupatki has a rather large collection of ruins scattered across the national monument park. However, Wupatki is the largest of the buildings found in the area and people lived in the site until about 1225 AD.
There are plenty more ruins found around the state but these few will give you an idea of what you can find. Have you visited any of these locations? Let us know what you thought or which one you would like to see in the future.