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Posted by on Apr 14, 2008 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

The Enduring Mystery of the Anasazi

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The Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde (top) and The Castle at Hovenweep

Except for the distant cry of a raven, there were only the sounds of my children, a friend and I peeling and munching on orange slices. It was noontime and we were squatting under the cottonwoods in a ravine beneath The Castle, an exquisitely constructed silo-like structure of sandstone at Hovenweep, a cluster of Anasazi ruins in the Utah desert. The trees offered the only shade in the area.

Hovenweep was the northernmost advance of the Anasazi, or Ancient Puebloans to use the politically correct term.

Why these people, whose origins have been traced to Mexico in about 1,200 BC, migrated north onto the Colorado Plateau — present day Arizona, Colorado and Utah — is barely understood. But it is their sudden disappearance about 700 years ago, leaving Hovenweep (which means “deserted valley” in the Piute-Ute languages) and other contiguous “cities” deserted and much as they looked when we passed the heat of the day in that ravine, that remains the most enduring mystery of the Southwestern U.S.

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  • runasim

    It’s strange to realize that a people can live, create and disappear without those coming later knowing much about them.

    Of course, what we do know about some people of the past often depends heavily on what was written by their conquerors, a highly suspect source..

  • Slamfu

    Not all that strange. They were a stone age folk living in a pretty rough climate and its a harsh world. Any fluke changes in crops or water supply can wipe them out real quick or force a mass migration. They did some pretty neat astronomy work for the technology level though.

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