Modern ideology would have us believe that the United States will last forever. However, history has shown that all civilizations fall, and give rise to new cultures and people. The ancestral Pueblo culture lived in the four corners region of the United States from about 100 to 1600 C.E. before they migrated to the south and east. Though their occupation of the area ended, their culture still lives on in several Native American tribes. At their peak in this area, they constructed large stone houses, known as pueblos, with between 20 and 1,000 rooms. The dry environment of the area has led to the preservation of many
of their sites and artifacts. These show that around 1250 C.E., the features and context of their society began to change. People began building defensively, grouping together into larger pueblos and surrounding themselves with a wall. Where a high population could not be supported, buildings were constructed in almost inaccessible locations. Shortly after the construction of these dwellings, many of the buildings were abandoned.
Archaeologists have determined that there was a severe drought during this period, causing extreme crop failure and other ecofacts point towards the deforestation of the area, both of which may have led to the abandonment of settlements. There is also evidence of violence within the ancestral Puebloans and with the Apache and Navajo nations. Starting in the 11th century, there began to be evidence of violent deaths likely related to internal struggles. By the 13th century, there was evidence of warfare.
In Sand Canyon, teams found skeletons with their skulls bashed in and others left lying, missing the usual evidence of a ritual burial. Castle Rock, another
settlement, had evidence of a massacre and possible cannibalism. By analysis of bones and through finding myoglobin – a human protein – in human feces and inside cooking vessels, cannibalism was likely to have occurred in a site called Cowboy Wash. Similar physical bone characteristics are present on the bones at Castle Rock. These violent events coincided with the end of habitation in many sites.
The timing of these events was determined through both absolute and relative dating techniques like dendrochronology and comparison of tree ring width, and the comparison of pottery shards to a known progression of decoration. For example, Castle Rock was only inhabited for about 28 years based on the analysis of roof beams. Also important in both timing and finding sites are the oral histories of the descendants of the ancestral Puebloans, who are the Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, and Laguna tribes.
These symptoms of decline are present in our society. We have tension within and without of our borders and we are dealing with overuse of resources and climate change. Our circumstances are remarkably similar to those of the ancestral Pueblo culture; we will have to see if our culture will live on as theirs did.
“Ancestral Pueblo Culture.” Encyclopedia Britannica. July 7, 2017. Accessed September 16, 2017.https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ancestral-Pueblo-culture
Kuckelman, Kristin A. “Final Days, Archaeology of Castle Rock Pueblo.” The Archaeology of Castle Rock Pueblo, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, 2000, www.crowcanyon.org/researchreports/castlerock/text/crpw_finaldays.asp
Roberts, David. “Riddles of the Anasazi: What awful event forced the Anasazi to flee their homeland, never to return?” Smithsonian Magazine. July 2003. Accessed September 16, 2017. https://www.google.com/search?q=fall+of+the+Anasazi+people&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
Image 1: Child, Greg. “Pueblo Cliff Dwelling.” Riddles of the Anasazi, Smithsonian Magazine, July 2003, www.google.com/search?q=fall+of+the+Anasazi+people&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8.
Image 2: “Map of Castle Rock Pueblo.” Map of Castle Rock Pueblo, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, 1999, www.crowcanyon.org/EducationProducts/ElecFieldTrip_CRP/cr_plan.asp.
For Further Reading:
“Anasazi.” “Anasazi.” State of Utah, 2017. http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/american_indians/anasazi.html
Kuckelman, Kristin A. “Archaeology of Castle Rock Pueblo.” Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. 2000. www.crowcanyon.org/researchreports/castlerock/text/crpw_contentsvolume.asp.
Shogren, Elizabeth. “Is Ancient People’s End a Warning for the Future?” NPR. NPR. 29 July 2007. www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12313268.
“What’s in a Name?” Archaeological Institute of America. Vol. 59, no. 4. 2006. http://archive.archaeology.org/0607/news/insider.html