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Historic view of the Sinagua cliff dwelling at Montezuma Castle National Monument. 1887
Sinagua petroglyphs at the V-bar-V petroglyph site

The Sinagua were a pre-Columbian cultural group occupying an area in central Arizona between the Little Colorado River and the Salt River (between Flagstaff and Phoenix) including the Verde Valley and significant portions of the Mogollon Rim country between approximately 500 AD and 1425 AD.

Early Sinagua sites consist of pit houses. Later structures more closely resembled the pueblo architecture found in other cultures throughout the southwestern United States. The Sinagua economy was based on a combination of hunter-gatherer foraging and subsistence agriculture.

The name Sinagua was given to this culture by archaeologist Harold Colton, founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona. Sinagua is derived from the Spanish words sin meaning "without" and agua meaning "water", referring to the name originally given by Spanish explorers to the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona, the "Sierra Sin Agua". The name reflects the surprise the Spaniards felt that such large mountains did not have perennial rivers flowing from them as is common in Spain.

Colton also distinguished between two different Sinagua cultures. The Northern Sinagua were clustered around the Flagstaff area, with Walnut Canyon National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, and Elden Pueblo the best-known publicly accessible sites. The Southern Sinagua were found throughout the Verde Valley of Central Arizona; Montezuma's Castle, Montezuma Well, Tuzigoot National Monument, Palatki Archaeological Site and the V-Bar-V Petroglyph Site are notable Southern Sinagua localities open to the public.

The last known record of Sinagua occupation for any sites are for Montezuma Castle National Monument around 1425 AD. The reasons for abandonment of their habitation sites are not yet known, but warfare, drought, and clashes with the newly arrived Yavapai people have been suggested.[citation needed] Several Hopi clans trace their roots to immigrants from the Sinagua culture. The Hopis believe their ancestors left the Verde Valley for religious reasons.[citation needed]

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