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Earl Morris & Aztec Ruin
Archeologist Earl H. Morris supervised excavation at Aztec Ruin during 1917-1934. You might say he was Aztec Ruins – the place defined his archeological career. He persuaded the American Museum of Natural History to let him direct a multi-year excavation at Aztec when he was just out of college in 1916. The National Park Service hired him as Aztec Ruins National Monument’s first custodian when the Government took over in 1923, and he got funding to restore its Great Kiva in 1934. When he died in 1957, his ashes were scattered in an interior room at Aztec.

Restored Great Kiva, Aztec Ruins National Monument

Restored Great Kiva, Aztec Ruins National Monument

Aztec may have been built as a later rival to Chaco Canyon, or it may have been a destination for the migrating Chaco elite escaping Chaco’s heavy drought in the 1100s.

A Kiva Wedding?
My interest in Aztec was more practical. My fiancee was seeing it for the first time, and had to approve it as the site for our wedding. We also needed to meet with NPS rangers to make our case for a special use permit.

I was lucky – my fiancee loved the place, the NPS approved the permit, and I photographed the ruins and Great Kiva with better equipment than I’d had on my last visit in 2003.

Hopi Reaction
It’s pretty well established that the Hopi are descendants of the Anasazi. Three Hopi elders were in the kiva when we were. They were polite, and talked about the continued ceremonial use of Ancestral Puebloan sites, and the proposed development they were trying to stop on sacred land at the San Francisco Peaks.

When we mentioned we were planning our wedding there, one of them said, “So you’re getting married in our kiva. When is that happening?” The wedding will take place during regular hours for the Monument, so I won’t be surprised if they show up…

More likely, they want to avoid a use conflict in a shared public resource that also happens to be one of their sacred spaces.


Hubbard tri-wall, Aztec Ruins National Monument

The Hubbard tri-wall sits northwest of Aztec’s West Ruin. Clyde Hubbard was planning to have it removed from his peach orchard by a steam shovel, but was persuaded to sell the land it was on instead. Archaeologists aren’t sure of the exact function of this round, kiva-like building. It has a kiva’s ceremonial form, but shows fire pits and other signs of domestic use. It was backfilled in the 1980s to prevent its deterioration.