Allow about 30 minutes to tour Tusayan Ruin. The 0.1 mile loop trail through the main ruin is paved and wheelchair-accessible; the side loop to a prehistoric farming site is not. Signs along the way explain the site's features. An interpretive trail guide with greater detail about Tusayan's inhabitants is available to your right.
Tusayan Ruin is a remnant of a small village of about 30 people who lived here for 25 to 30 years in the late 1100s. The architecture was typical for that period. Pueblo architecture varied according to availability of local materials. Here, builders used limestone blocks held together with mud.
The name "Tusayan" was the Spanish name for this geographic area, and was given to the ruin by archeologists who excavated the site in 1930.
Trail Markers Follow
These rooms were living quarters. Although the initial excavation report suggested that the amount of rock debris was enough for a second story, the debris visible today suggests a single story, with 3 or 4 main rooms.
During the estimated 25 or 30 years that the pueblo was occupied, its population probably did not exceed 30 people at any one time.
The tree in front of you is a Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma). Found today at elevations between 3,000 and 7,000 feet, Utah juniper was used by ancestral Puebloan builders for the main beams in their dwellings. These trees tell much about Tusayan.
The pattern of tree rings found within wooden beams helps date the ruin. During dry years tree growth is slow and rings are narrow. During wet years rings are broader. Ring patterns on charred wood fragments from kiva roofs here at Tusayan have been correlated with regional tree growth data covering many centuries. In this way an approximate date of A.D. 1185 was determined for the structures here.
The kiva was a ceremonial room. Its basic structure developed from ancestral Pueblo pithouses. Various activities took place here, including storage, ceremonies, rites, and festivals. Public portions of these ceremonies were usually held in the plaza.
This circular row of stones outlines a kiva (ceremonial room). Usually kivas were built mostly underground but the Kaibab Limestone in this region prevented digging very deep.
Sometime during the occupation of the pueblo, this kiva burned. Rather than rebuild here, another kiva was built nearby to replace it.
San Francisco Peaks
In the distance you can see Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 ft (3851m). Forty-eight miles south of here, Humphreys Peak is one of a series of mountains known as the San Francisco Peaks, which once were active volcanoes. Geologically young, the peaks formed in the past six million years or so and have been active as recently as 1000 years ago.
What did the inhabitants of Tusayan think about the huge mountains, or did Tusayan's prehistoric residents view them as a spiritual place? This view is held today by the Hopi, who are believed to be modern spiritual descendents of the ancestral Pueblo people of this area. The Hopi people believe that the San Francisco Peaks are the dwelling place of the Kachinas, their ancestral spirits.