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"Aztec" Ruins, New Mexico

Updated: May 19

Are these structures the product of primitive man?

Application: Their is no such thing as "primitive man." We are all created in the image of God.

In this Lesson, Dr. Bob visits the misnamed "Aztec" ruins in New Mexico. Here he discovers amazing, advanced construction by an capable community. Rather than reflecting a primitive culture, when viewed through a Biblical perspective, this is evidence of the incredible capability of humanity, even when living in difficult circumstances.

Supplemental Information

The Bible describes a period of massive upheaval on the earth: the global flood (Genesis 6–9). During the flood civilization was completely destroyed except for eight God-believing people. Humanity was forced to start over. It is in this historical context that some scholars believe men lived in caves and made use of stone tools. They are regarded as primitive. But these people were not primitive; they were living in primitive conditions. And they were not the products of evolutionary processes, moving from ape to man.

The early fossil remains are sometimes interpreted as a transition between ape and men. This is what is responsible for the view most people have of "primitive" man, or "cavemen." People may picture furry half-men, half-ape creatures crouched in a cave next to a fire, drawing on the walls with their newly developed stone tools. This is a false narrative. As far as Darwinian anthropology goes, we should keep in mind that these interpretations reflect an anti-God worldview and are not the result of the evidence. In fact, not only is there major opposition to these interpretations within the academic community, but the Darwinists themselves do not entirely agree on the details.

When God created Adam and Eve, they were fully developed human beings, capable of communication, society, and development (Genesis 2:19–25; 3:1–20; 4:1–12). Evolutionary scientists go to great lengths to “prove” the existence of primitive man. They find a misshapen tooth in a cave and from that create a misshapen human being who lived in a cave, hunched over like an ape. There is no way that science can prove the existence of primitive man by a fossil. Evolutionary scientists simply have a theory, and then they force the evidence to fit that theory. Adam and Eve were the first human beings ever created and were fully formed, had language, were intelligent, and walked upright.

Anti-God anthropologists (scientists who study human cultures through time) believe there must be a development of man from a primitive condition rather than the miraculous creation of man described in the Bible. The Biblical account describes people who were fully civilized, right from the beginning. The anti-God theory of evolution, applied to anthropology, seemed to gain support as the exploration of Africa and the Americas presented evidence of people who appeared technologically less developed than Europeans.

The Spanish conquests in the Americas raised in a particular way the problem of just what constituted "being human." This discussion even attempted to employ the Bible in its defense. Since the Native Americans were not mentioned in the Bible, did that mean they were not human? This idea was very popular because it was used as justification for Europeans (and later Americans) to take the land from these "non-human," "primitive" people. There was political and economic benefit to accepting an evolutionary version of history.

This same philosophy has been applied to the Puebloans who built these structures. There was political and economic benefit in declaring them primitive, and even questioning their humanity, since their land and the resources it contained were valuable. It was not beyond those telling the stories to take sides, even among these tribes. The Puebloans are often called Anasazi. This term is Navajo in origin, and means “ancient enemy.” The Pueblo peoples of New Mexico understandably do not wish to refer to their ancestors in such a disrespectful manner, the term they prefer is “Ancestral Pueblo” or “Ancestral Puebloan.”

Göbekli Tepe

While Göbekli Tepe may seem far removed from New Mexico and the Aztec Ruins, it demonstrates the challenges the evolutionary view of human culture creates. There are numerous inconsistencies with what evolution predicts (and requires) and what is actually observed in human history.

Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, with its massive, T-shaped 7-10 ton stone pillars cut and hauled from limestone quarries, creates a dilemma for evolutionary anthropologists. It dates from a time when humans are depicted as "hunter-gatherers" without the know-how, skills and labor to produce them. Anthropologist Graham Hancock says, “at the very least it would mean that some as yet unknown and unidentified people somewhere in the world, had already mastered all the arts and attributes of a high the depths of the last Ice Age and had sent out emissaries around the world to spread the benefits of their knowledge.” Göbekli Tepe defies the non-Biblical version of history: people were hunter-gatherers, they began to plant crops, this led to building cities, religion was created to bring order to these cities, etc. Göbekli Tepe precedes their timeline for cities, and since it is obviously a religious site, puts religion before cities. In a Biblical worldview, Göbekli Tepe can be viewed as post-flood peoples attempt to reestablish centers of religious worship soon after the flood, even before they had fully conquered this new world. The images on the stones at Göbekli Tepe point to a people who had a recent experience with a global catastrophe, one that involved floods, and the preservation of animals.

Who Built the "Aztec Ruins"?

These structures were not built by the Aztecs of central Mexico but by ancestral Pueblo people who lived there centuries before the Aztec empire prospered. Inspired by popular histories about Cortez's conquest of Mexico, and thinking that the Aztec built these structures, Anglo settlers named the place Aztec.

The Pueblo people represent a specific, unusual adaptation of Mexican agricultural economies to the mesa and canyon lands of northern New Mexico and Arizona. They certainly trace their ancestors to the so-called "Anasazi" and their immediate ancestors, the Basketmakers, going back at least 2500 years.

Settlers moved into the lower Animas Valley in 1876, and used many stones on the ruin site for building chimneys and fireplaces in their new homes. Some of the lower floors were broken into, and digging in the mound by pot-hunters took place. It was not until 1916 that this great site was scientifically excavated. This was done, under the direction of the American Museum of Natural History, by Earl H. Morris. Excavations were made between 1916 and 1921, and most of the rooms were cleaned out. About 150 remain unexcavated.

There were two phases of occupation in Aztec. The pueblo was originally built in the first quarter of the twelfth century, by people related to those of Chaco Canyon, judging by their pottery and other objects. There apparently was a break in the occupation, and temporarily the site was deserted. In the middle thirteenth century, Mesa Verde people occupied Aztec, building the other large pueblo. The site was finally deserted later in the thirteenth century.

Kivas play a significant role in the Pueblo ceremonies, dances and rituals that are part of their "kachina" belief system. A small hole or indentation in the floor of kivas represents "sipapuni", the emergence place, that symbolizes the portal through which their ancient ancestors first emerged to enter the present world, referred to as the Fourth world. The Third World was destroyed by floods and the people were guided by the deities and emerged from the underworld to the Fourth World, Earth. Tradition holds that the Ancestral Puebloans were guided by spirits as they undertook a long migration across North America before creating their settlements.

Kivas are still in use among contemporary Puebloan people, as a gathering place used when communities reunite to perform rituals and ceremonies.

Kivas are typically interpreted through the kachina belief system. This system appears to have emerged in the South-West around 1250 A.D. Kivas are much older and predate this belief system. The room's original purposes were changed or adapted to suit the new religious practice. It is unclear what purpose the structures within the Kiva may have served, but their similarity to features in other religious structures (such as Jewish synagogues) is noteworthy. There is astronomical alignment within these structures pointing to an advanced understanding of astronomy.

The importance of astronomy to this culture stemmed from a practical need to establish a precise method for telling time, monitoring agricultural events, performing religious ceremonies, and regulating governmental activities. They knew that the progression of the seasons was matched to the rhythmic motions of the heavens, and that the sky was a far more accurate indicator of these cycles than making systematic observation of the weather. Important rituals were keyed to annual celestial events.

The Lie of "Primitive Man"

It should be clear by now that the idea that any past civilizations, or group of people, should be considered primitive is false. Undoubtedly some people find themselves living in primitive conditions, due to disasters, climate, war or any number of other circumstances. But in every situation, humanity thrives and builds. This is a testament to the intellect given everyone created in God's image.

In God's Image

Everyone, since the creation of Adam and Eve, has carried the spiritual characteristics that make them God’s children, having been created “in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). Tzelem Elohim, the “image of God”, can also be understood as “God’s shadow” since the root tzel (צֵל), is the word for “shadow”. In a sense, a copy, even if at times an imperfect one, of the perfect real image. Tzelem Elohim is the conjugation of two terms. Tzelem (צֶ֫לֶם), is a Hebrew term which describes “to carve” or “to cut.” In Genesis 1:27 this phrase is coupled with “created”, or demuth (דְּמוּת). Demuth, from the root meaning “to be like.” There is a sense of the object being invested with an essence, carrying with it abstract attributes of the real, including self-consciousness, mercy, power, authority, intelligence or any of the attributes of God’s nature.

There is something of God that resides in every man. So, in Genesis 1, the idea is clearly that man represents God, including His presence in the world and His authority. None of the other creations of God are in God’s image.

To relegate any group of people to anything other than God's image, is to deny them something God has already given them.


Scripture References

  • "Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." Genesis 2:7

  • "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'" Genesis 1:26

  • "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." Psalm 139:14

  • "But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." Job 12:7-10 (Emphasis Added)

  • "If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." 1 John 4:20-21

  • "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him." Romans 10:12

Aztec Ruins Worksheet
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