The Anasazi culture emerged around 1200 B.C. Modern Pueblo people are descended from these ancient Pueblo ones. But where did the Anasazi come from, and what can they teach us?
A period of intense climate change caused their ancestors to seek a new home. They settled in modern day Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Although the term Anasazi is commonly translated as ancient people, it is a Navajo word meaning “enemy ancestors”.
The Anasazi Indians lived in adobe and sandstone homes, built along cliff walls accessible only by rope or ladder. They are famous for the unique pottery, rare and valuable. Their artistic flair extended to petroglyphs and pictographs carved into the stone. Many of these still survive in National Parks of the United States.
From 700 to 1130 AD, the population boomed. The rains arrived on schedule, and food was plentiful. It is likely that people from surrounding areas hoined the communities. The Anasazi were masters at pottery, making beautiful containers to store food. And food was abundant – as the Anasazi learned about agriculture, it seemed that times of famine were forever gone.
The Anasazi Indians lived in Mesa Verdi, Colorado for over a thousand years. They are vibrant civilized nation created complicated cities in the cliffs in caves. Other settlements, like in Moab, Utah, are similarly complex. Yet they disappeared around 1300 A.D., as mysteriously as they had come.
It is unknown why they disappeared. A 300-year-long drought which began in 1150 A.D. may have caused the Pueblo peoples to abandon their cities. While farmers in certain areas were able to rely on irrigation, the Anasazi did not have this option. The area became increasingly arid and inhospitable. At the same time, water tables dropped, making the problem worse.
During this period of want and hunger, the Anasazi began to abandon the old religion, dismantling and even burning religious buildings. Puebloan tradition tells us that their ancestors became very powerful, with the ability to control the forces of nature. The ancestors abused this power, changing nature in unexpected ways. It is believed that the dismantling of religious structures was meant to appease Nature, an apology for the abuse.
Starvation leads to conflict over scarce resources. Many Anasazi tribes moved to high locations, far removed from food and water. From a ??? standpoint, this seems ridiculous; from the standpoint of defense, it makes perfect sense. The archaeological record shows this to be a time of turmoil, warfare, and possibly even cannibalism.
So where are the Anasazi Indians today? Some assert that they died off, victims of starvation and war. Others believe that the Anasazi migrated to other areas, merging with Pueblo peoples whose ancestors still live in Arizona and New Mexico.
The ancestors abused nature, and the result was a people divided, scattered to the winds. Perhaps we can learn our lesson, before it’s too late.