Friday, June 28, 2013

Awesome Arizona - World's First High-Rises

Seems like everyone wants a room with a view.

In Peru, Machu Picchu clings to a mountain ridge almost 8,000 feet above sea level.  Carved high in the dusky pink cliffs of Jordan, the remarkable city of Petra provides sweeping vistas of the desert.  And in Europe, old cities perch on hilltops.  All of these ancient inhabitants truly had penthouse views.  Of course, they also built "high" to avoid mosquitoes, disease, which was assumed to originate in the swampy flatlands, and encounters with marauders, but I'll bet it was the view that really sold them.

Even the first settlers of North America wanted a penthouse view.  Just an hour and a half north of Phoenix and a couple miles off I-10 lies Montezuma's Castle, a misnomer because there is no castle and the Aztec ruler had nothing to do with the construction, but impressive nevertheless. 

Built by the Sinagua, distantly related to the Hohokam, around 700 AD, the five-story structure was occupied from 1100-1400 by various native American tribes until they suddenly disappeared for reasons which are still not understood. 

The Visitor Center does a fine job explaining the backstory, and a path leads to excellent views of the cliff dwellings themselves.

Now I understand why my dad, a first-generation American who spoke only Swedish until he went to first grade, always told us children to build on a hill.  It wasn't because it was a Swedish tradition or because we lived near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where so many rivers crisscrossed the valleys that flooding was inevitable.  It was because he was following an ancient tradition and wanted his children always to have a room with a view.

Practicalities - For more information about Montezuma's Castle, click here.

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