On January 24, 1923, President Warren G. Harding issued an executive order creating Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, New Mexico. Almost 90 years later the park has completed and installed its first permanent, official entrance sign.
The sign will welcome visitors and communicate the national significance of the site they are visiting. Superintendent Larry Turk began the project, the City of Aztec supported the effort, and all park divisions worked together to make the vision a reality.
The sign is built like an ancient wall and incorporates important elements of ancestral Puebloan construction. Stone is shaped and stacked with mud mortar. The wall is the thick core and veneer distinctive of Chaco and Aztec great houses. Large pine beams (vigas) are built into the wall, representing the impressive roofs still surviving in West Ruin.
For monument employees, the sign was a lesson in the effort required by ancestral Puebloan builders. Skilled park archaeologists and preservation crew members built the sign in the same way they would repair ancient wall. From start to finish, the project still took these expert masons four weeks to complete. After building up one stone at a time, they pointed mortar into the crevices at the surface for a smooth finish. The tedious work made spectators wonder: How did the ancestral Puebloans build the 450 rooms of West Ruin in only 30 years?
The project was completed in numerous steps, from the masonry wall, to the wooden vigas, to the metal nameplate, to the surrounding flagstone walkway. The public followed its progress through regular updates on the park’s Facebook page. At 2 p.m. on December 13th, the arrowhead was installed to complete the project. Minutes later, employees rushed out in the drizzling rain to snap the picture they’d been waiting for.