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People of the Colorado Plateau
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Anasazi
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The Anasazi "collapse"
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peoplebutton.gif (1940 bytes)The Anasazi or "Ancient Pueblo"

du_map1b.jpg (23496 bytes)

Map of the Southwest Tradition. Source: DesertUSA http://www.desertusa.com/ind1/du_peo_ancient.html

Thousands of archaeological sites in the southern part of the Colorado Plateau, such as the particularly the magnificent cliff-dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park, offer abundant evidence of the former presence of an mysterious and sophisticated civilization commonly known as the Anasazi, or Ancient Pueblo peoples. Their renown among archaeologists and the general public is further enhanced by the fact that they seemingly disappeared from much of their homeland at the height of their success towards the end of the 13th century.

The name "Anasazi" has come to mean "ancient people," although the word itself is Navajo, meaning "enemy ancestors." The use of the term is offensive to many Native Americans. Archaeologist Linda Cordell discusses its etymology and use in her book, Prehistory of the Southwest:

The name "Anasazi" has come to mean "ancient people," although the word itself is Navajo, meaning "enemy ancestors." It is unfortunate that a non-Pueblo word has come to stand for a tradition that is certainly ancestral Pueblo. The term was first applied to ruins of the Mesa Verde by Richard Wetherill, a rancher and trader who, in 1888-1889, was the first Anglo-American to explore the sites in that area. Wetherill knew and worked with Navajos and understood what the word meant. The name was further sanctioned in archaeology when it was adopted by Alfred V. Kidder, the acknowledged dean of Southwestern Archaeology. Kidder felt that is was less cumbersome than a more technical term he might have used. Subsequently some archaeologists who would try to change the term have worried that because the Pueblos speak different languages, there are different words for "ancestor," and using one might be offensive to people speaking other languages. My own preference is to use Ancient Pueblo or Ancestral Pueblo, where possible, but this too is problematical. Such usage obscures the observation that the Mogollon tradition is also considered by many to be ancestral to Pueblo peoples. Further, archaeologists are themselves tradition bound and would not be dissuaded from continuing to use the term Anasazi, which features so prominently in their professional literature."

Our understanding of the Ancestral Pueblo suffers from the great discontinuity in oral tradition caused by the so-called Anasazi collapse of 800 years ago. Our understanding is largely informed instead by the abundant material record preserved in the arid conditions of the desert southwest. Especially in the last 25 years, archaeologists have been able to piece together not only the cultural and physical record of the lives of this estraordinary civilization, but of their land-use history as well.

Follow these links to:
Archaeological Treasures
Prehistoric Farmers
Population change
Paleoenvironment
The Anasazi "collapse"
Archaeoastronomy

Research:

The Spread of Maize to the Colorado Plateau. Migration theories have become an essential part of our understanding of Anasazi origins. The convergence of archaeological research on the Colorado Plateau and elsewhere in the Greater Southwest demonstrates that the traditional view of Anasazi development as essentially independent of Mexico is clearly no longer viable.

Resources:

Adler, M. A. 1994. Population Aggregation and the Anasazi Social Landscape: A View from the Four Corners. Pp. 85-101 In: Wills, W. H. and Leonard, R., editors. The Ancient Southwestern Community: Models and Methods for the Study of Prehistoric Social Organization. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

Akins, N. J. 1985. Prehistoric faunal utilization in Chaco Canyon: Basketmaker III through Pueblo III. Pp. 305-446 In: Mathien, F. J., editor. Environment and Subsistence of Chaco Canyon. Publications in Archaeology 18E, Chaco Canyon Studies, National Park Service, Albuquerque, NM.

Ambler, R. J. 1977. The Anasazi. Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff, AZ.

Betancourt, J. L., Dean, J. S. and Hull, H. M. 1986. Prehistoric long-distance transport of construction beams, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. American Antiquity 51: 370-375.

Bureau of Land Management. 1990. Anasazi Basketmakers: Papers from the 1990 Wetherill-Grand Gulch Symposium.Cultural Resources Series Number 24. BLM, Salt Lake City, UT.

Cordell, L. S. 1994. Ancient Pueblo Peoples. Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C.

Cordell, L. 1997. Archaeology of the Southwest. Second Edition. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, 522 pp.

Dean, J. S. 1986. TsÚ Yaa Kin: Houses Beneath the Rock. Pp. 2-13 In: Noble, D. G., editor. Houses Beneath the Rock: The Anasazi of Canyon de Chelly and Navajo National Monument. Ancient City Press, Santa Fe, NM.

Emslie, S. D. 1984. Cultural and climatic implications in Anasazi faunal exploitation: a review and perspectives. Pp. 119-124 In: Proceedings of the Anasazi Symposium: Mesa Verde National Park, CO. Mesa Verde Museum Association, Inc., Mesa Verde, CO.

Fall, P. 1986. The Anasazi of Canyon de Chelly. Pp. 34-41 In: Noble, D. G., editor. Houses Beneath the Rock: The Anasazi of Canyon de Chelly and Navajo National Monument. Ancient City Press, Santa Fe, NM.

Gabriel, K. 1991. Roads to Center Place: A Cultural Atlas to Chaco Canyon and the Anasazi. Johnson Books, Boulder, CO.

Goss, J. A. 1965. Ute linguistics and Anasazi abandonment of the Four Corners area. Contributions of the Wetherill Mesa Archeological Project, Memoirs of the Society for American Archaeology 19: 73-81.

Gumerman, G. J. 1988. The Anasazi in a Changing Environment. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 317 pp.

Gumerman, G. J. and Dean, J. S. 1989. Prehistoric cooperation and competition in the western Anasazi area. Pp. 99-137 In: Cordell, L. S. and Gumerman, G. J., editors. Dynamics of Southwest Prehistory. Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.

Haas, J. 1986. The Evolution of the Kayenta Anasazi. Pp. 14-23 In: Noble, D. G., editor. Houses Beneath the Rock: The Anasazi of Canyon de Chelly and Navajo National Monument. Ancient City Press, Santa Fe, NM.

Hecht, R. A. 1987. Anasazi Trails. Archaeology Magazine, Archeological Insititute of America 40: 22-28.

Hutchinson, A., Smith, J. E. and Usher, J., editors. 1991. Proceedings of the Anasazi Symposium 1991. Mesa Verde Museum Association, Inc., Mesa Verde, CO, 320 pp.

Irwin-Williams, C. 1973. The Oshara Tradition: Origins of the Anasazi Culture. Eastern New Mexico Contributions in Anthropology 5.

Jones, D. and Cordell, L. S. 1985. Anasazi World. Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company, Portland, OR.

Kantner, J. 1999. Sipapu: The Anasazi Emergence into the Cyber World. <http://sipapu.gsu.edu/> 11/8/2000.

Kohler, T. A. 1988. Long-term Anasazi land use and forest reduction: A case study from southwest Colorado. American Antiquity 53: 537-564.

LeBlanc, S. A. 1999. Prehistoric warfare in the American Southwest. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Lekson, S. H. 1995. Tracking the movements of an ancient people. Archaeology Magazine, Archaeological Institute of America 48: 54-57.

Lekson, S. H. 1997. Rewriting southwestern prehistory: New studies suggest an overarching political system dominated much of the Southwest from A.D. 850 to 1500. Archaeology 50: 52-55.

Lister, R. 1955. The Ancients of the Canyons. Pp. 48-57 In: Stegner, W., editor. This is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and its Magic rivers. Roberts Rinehart, Inc., Publishers, Boulder, CO.

Lister, F. C. and Lister, R. H. 1994. Those Who Came Before: Southwestern Archaeology in the National Park System. Second Edition. Southwest Parks & Monuments Association, Tucson, AZ, 184 pp.

Mathien, F. J., editor. 1985. Environment and Subsistence of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Publications in Archaeology 18E, Chaco Canyon Studies. National Park Service, Albuquerque, NM, 487 pp.

Matlock, G. 1988. Enemy Ancestors: The Anasazi World With A Guide To Sites. Northland Publishing, Flagstaff, AZ, 116 pp.

Matson, R. G. 1991. The Origins of Southwestern Agriculture. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

McNitt, F. 1957. Richard Wetherill: Anasazi. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 362 pp.

Muench, D. and Pike, D. G. 1974. Anasazi: Ancient People of the Rock. American West Publishing Company, Palo Alto, CA.

Noble, D. G. 1981. Ancient Ruins of the Southwest: An Archeological Guide. Northland Press, Flagstaff, Az.

Parker, K. 1991. The Only True People: A History Of The Native Americans Of The Colorado Plateau. Thunder Mesa Publishing, Denver, CO, 84 pp.

Petersen, K. L. 1988. Climate and the Dolores River Anasazi: A Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction from a 10,000-Year Pollen Record, La Plata Mountains, Southwestern Colorado. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Plog, F., Gumerman, G. J., Euler, R. C., Dean, J. S., Hevley, R. H. and Karlstrom, T. N. V. 1988. Anasazi Adaptive Strategies: The Model, Predictions, and Results. Pp. 230-276 In: Gumerman, G. J., editor. The Anasazi in a Changing Environment. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY.

Plog, S. 1997. Ancient Peoples of the American Southwest. Thames and Hudson, Ltd., London, England, 224 pp.

Powell, S. 1983. Mobility and Adaptation: The Anasazi of Black Mesa, Arizona. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, IL.

Sebastian, L. 1992. The Chaco Anasazi: Sociopolitical Evolution in the Prehistoric Southwest. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 181 pp.

Smith, J. E. 1987. Mesas, Cliffs, and Canyons: The University of Colorado Survey of Mesa Verde National Park, 1971-1977. Mesa Verde Research Series Paper No. 3. Mesa Verde Museum Association, Inc., Mesa Verde, CO, 102 pp.

Supplee, C., Anderson, D. and Anderson, B. 1974. Canyon de Chelly: The Story Behind the Scenery. KC Publications, Las Vegas, NV, 32 pp.

Turner, C. G. 1999. Man Corn: Cannibalism and Violence in the Prehistoric American Southwest. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 547 pp.

Van West, C. R. 1991. Reconstructing prehistoric climatic variability and agricultural production in southwestern Colorado, A.D. 901-1300: A GIS approach. Pp. 25-34 In: Hutchinson, A., Smith, J. E. and Usher, J., editors. Proceedings of the Anasazi Symposium 1991. Mesa Verde Museum Association, Inc., Mesa Verde, CO.

Vivian, R. G. 1990. The Chacoan Prehistory of the San Juan Basin. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.

White, T. D. 1992. Prehistoric Cannibalism at Mancos 5MTUMR-2346. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 492 pp.

Wills, W. H. 1988. Early Prehistoric Agriculture in the American Southwest. School of American Research Press, Santa Fe, NM.