Americans first spotted the ruins when settling the area in the 1860s, looking not much different from this 1880s photo. It was these settlers you can thank for the misleading name.
Montezuma (also referred to as Moctezuma II), the Aztec leader during the Spanish colonization of the Americas, was assumed to be connected with the construction of these cliff dwellings and their castle-like appearance. However, he was born nearly three centuries after construction of the dwelling began and it’s unlikely that Aztec reign reached more than 1,500 miles north in the Verde Valley.
While it may not have the royal roots settlers may have hope for, the Sinagua are thought to be related to some Hopi and Yavapai clans and communities based on oral stories.