Message #276:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: More Anasazi Social Strife
Date: Mon, 26 Aug 96 13:30:00 MST
Encoding: 218 TEXT

From: George Johnson

If you want to request permission from the Times to distribute the 
article, you could try Elizabeth Osder ( She's not the 
permissions person, but she could surely steer you in the right direction. 
Actually, since you're a nonprofit, educational organization, I really 
doubt that anyone would mind if you went ahead and distributed the whole 
text, which you can download from my Web page. Just be sure to include the 
copyright line. Thanks again for your interest.  

George Johnson

[ Based on Mr Johnson's e-mail, here is the full text of the Anasazi article 
 -- SASIG Ed. ]
Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company    
The New York Times August 20, 1996, Tuesday, Late Edition - Final    
Section C; Page 1; Column 3; 
Science Desk 
1903 words

Social Strife May Have Exiled Ancient Indians

UNTIL very recently, the most perplexing mystery of Southwestern archeology 
 -- what caused the collapse of the ancient empire of the Anasazi -- seemed 
all but solved. Careful scrutiny of tree-ring records seemed to establish 
that in the late 1200's a prolonged dry spell called the Great Drought drove 
these people, the ancestors of today's pueblo Indians, to abandon their 
magnificent stone villages at Mesa Verde and elsewhere on the Colorado 
Plateau, never to return again.

But in the last few years, Southwestern archeology has been shaken with a 
quiet revolution. Textbooks are being rewritten as the common wisdom, taught 
to generations of students, is overturned. "Nobody is talking about great 
droughts anymore," said Dr. Linda Cordell, a professor of anthropology at 
the University of Colorado in Boulder and director of the natural history 
museum there. "The mystery of the Anasazi is an open book again."

Groundbreaking climatological studies have convinced many archeologists that 
the "so-called Great Drought," as detractors now call it, simply was not bad 
enough to be the deciding factor in the sudden evacuation, in which tens of 
thousands of Anasazi (the name, pronounced an-a-SAH-zee, means "enemy 
ancestors" in Navajo) moved to the Hopi mesas in northeastern Arizona, to 
the Zuni lands in western New Mexico and to dozens of adobe villages in the 
watershed of the Rio Grande.

"There are just too many little discrepancies," said Dr. Eric Blinman of the 
Office of Archeological Studies of the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe. 
Recent studies have shown, for example, that the evacuation actually began 
before the dry spell set in. Even more telling is evidence that the Anasazi 
had weathered many severe droughts in the past. Why did the one in the late 
13th century cause an entire population to abandon the settlements they had 
worked so hard to build?

"The Great Drought may have been the last straw," said Dr. John Ware, 
another archeologist at the Museum of New Mexico. "But in and of itself, it 
just wasn't enough."

As they sift the evidence, archeologists are finding surprising new elements 
that may have conspired with drier weather to bring about the calamitous 
fall. Belying the popular image of the Anasazi as a peaceable kingdom of 
farmers and potters, some of the new research puts the blame for the 
collapse on a bloody internecine war. Other researchers are trying to 
combine archeological evidence with anthropological studies of the modern 
pueblo Indians to make the case that the Anasazi were roiled by a religious 
crisis as divisive as European medieval heresies. In some scenarios, the 
Anasazi were pulled farther south en masse by an attractive new religion.

Trying to recreate ideology from artifacts requires huge stretches of the 
imagination, but archeologists find it telling that many of the Anasazi 
religious structures -- like the tall cylindrical tower kivas found at 
Hovenweep in southeastern Utah -- were not re-established in the new 
homelands. Once the Anasazi left the old empire, it seems, the ideological 
slate was wiped clean.

Many archeologists long complained that the Great Drought story seemed a 
little too pat. The recent flowering of theories began in 1990 when an 
archeology student at Washington State University, Carla Van West, startled 
a conference at Crow Canyon Archeological Center in Cortez, Colo., with 
research undermining the great drought theory.

Drawing on records compiled by the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the 
University of Arizona, Dr. Van West calculated just how much moisture a 
700-square-mile area near Mesa Verde in southern Colorado had actually 
received before abandonment. Correlating these data with information on 
productivity of various soil types, modern crop yields, and detailed 
geography, she concluded that enough corn could have been grown during the 
drought to support the population.

"What her work does is to show that there is not good evidence for a drought 
so profound that it literally wiped out all farming in the area," said Dr. 
William Lipe, an archeologist at Washington State University. "That simple 
version just won't hold up anymore."

However, from studying human bones left in the ruins, archeologists were 
pretty sure that the Anasazi had been suffering from malnutrition, shorter 
life spans and increased infant mortality. If there was the potential to 
grow enough food, then why were people  starving?

Dr. Ware was one of the skeptics. "I felt like a coroner in the local 
morgue," he said. "The investigating officer comes in and tells me the 
accident wasn't that bad. But I'm seeing the destruction all around me."

Dr. Van West's study helped set off a search for new, more complex 
explanations for the collapse. An assumption built into Dr. Van West's model 
was that the Anasazi could simply move to new plots nearby whenever the land 
they were working became too dry. Some climatological evidence, based on 
tree-ring and pollen studies, suggests that Anasazi farmers may have been 
kept from moving to higher, moister grounds by a worldwide cooling trend 
called the Little Age Ice. According to this theory, the Anasazi were 
squeezed from two directions: lower elevations were too dry for farming, 
higher ones too cold.

Dr. Michael Adler, an archeologist at Southern Methodist University, argues 
that the Anasazi were not able to move around freely because their once open 
range was becoming balkanized into hostile fiefdoms. Archeological evidence 
shows that in this period, perhaps as a reaction to drier weather, people in 
the Mesa Verde area began building dams and canals to trap and divert water 
to terraced fields. They were "investing in landscapes," Dr. Adler said, and 
presumably began to feel more territorial about where they had settled. "The 
land was filling up with claims and rights," he said. "People had to ask 
before they used."

The result may have been conflict and warfare. Near Kayenta in northeastern 
Arizona, Dr. Jonathan Haas of the Field Museum in Chicago has been studying 
a group of Anasazi villages that relocated from the canyons to the high mesa 
tops around 1250 A.D. The only reason Dr. Haas can see for a move so far 
from water and arable land is defense against enemies. "If you don't have 
enough food to feed your children, you go raiding," he said. "And once I 
raid you, then you have justification to raid back -- the revenge motive. 
And so warfare becomes endemic in the 13th century."

The settlements Dr. Haas is studying near Kayenta seem to have been 
carefully arranged so that each village could watch out for its neighbors. 
In one case, a notch was cut into a ridge to create a line-of-sight view. 
Dr. Haas theorizes that interdependent networks like this would have been as 
fragile as a house of cards. "If one community drops out and it is 
strategically located, then the others become
unviable," he said. "There is a ripple effect. "

But other archeologists have trouble envisioning how even drought, 
balkanization and warfare could make an entire civilization evacuate. Why 
didn't the winners of the Anasazi wars stay and enjoy the spoils?

"The peculiar character of the abandonment is its completeness, its 
rapidity," said Dr. Lipe of Washington State. "This suggests that some kind 
of 'pull' was operating as well -- or an ideology favoring migration."

Analyzing the spread of religious symbols found on rocks or pottery and the 
distribution of ceremonial structures, some archeologists argue that the 
Anasazi may have been pulled from their homeland by a new religion emerging 
among neighbors to the south.

One candidate is the Kachina religion with its masks, familiar to visitors 
to Zuni and Hopi pueblos. Unlike many of the secret organizations in the 
modern pueblos, the Kachina societies, in which spirits of dead ancestors 
act as intermediaries to the gods, are open to everyone. Some archeologists 
have surmised that this egalitarian spirit would have had great appeal to a 
civilization, like the Anasazi's, that was entering a dark age. "There was 
hot stuff going on down south," said Dr. Steve Lekson, a research associate 
at the University of Colorado Museum. "There was a new, vibrant, flashy, 
more democratic ideology."

But archeologists disagree on whether the archeological record of 
Kachina-like icons and other artifacts puts the religion on the scene early 
enough to have attracted Anasazi. And even if there were some compelling new 
religion, these skeptics argue, why wouldn't the ideas just spread 
northward? People did not have to flock to Rome to embrace Christianity.

Although he does not buy the notion of a "pull" exerted by the Kachina 
religion or some other faith, Dr. Ware believes the Anasazi world was indeed 
rocked by a spiritual crisis catastrophic enough to cause a collapse of a 
civilization. One major clue is the lack of traditional Anasazi ceremonial 
structures-- like the tower kivas -- in the Rio Grande pueblos and among the 
Zuni and Hopi. Once the uprooted Anasazi arrived in their new homes, they 
apparently embraced a variety of new beliefs.

Anthropologists studying 20th-century pueblos have found a bewildering mix 
of secret societies co-existing with the more recent Kachina religion. There 
are hunt societies, medicine societies and societies of sacred clowns. In 
addition, pueblos are often divided into two factions, called the summer and 
winter or the squash and turquoise people.

Anthropologists are fairly sure that these new organizations were not 
imported by the Anasazi but sprang up after their arrival. That, they say, 
is why the Kachina religion is strong in the western pueblos of Hopi and 
Zuni, but fades eastward. On the other hand, the division into summer and 
winter people is strongest in the east, fading to the west.

"There was a major reshuffling of organizational systems once the Anasazi 
got here," Dr. Ware said. "That suggests there was a catastrophe."

It may have been a change in climate after all, but one different from the 
drought Dr. Van West questions. Recent climatological studies by other 
scientists suggest that rainfall patterns were disrupted in a way that might 
have made the Anasazi disillusioned with their old religion. Studying tree 
rings from 27 sites across the Southwest, Dr. Jeffrey Dean of the University 
of the Arizona tree-ring laboratory has found evidence of a major disruption 
in the area's typical rainfall. Suddenly, the customary pattern of heavy 
snows in the winter followed by summer monsoons had become unpredictable. 
Even if there was not a great drought, moisture may have been coming at the 
wrong times. The summer rains, so necessary to keep the spring crops from 
dying, were no longer reliable. The rain dances were not working anymore.

"This would have represented a major upset," Dr. Dean said. "And it happens 
to occur exactly at the time when you're getting all these population 
movements and cultural changes."

What all these theories have in common is a rejection of the old notion of 
the environment as the single determining cause, with the Anasazi no more 
than passive pawns of blind forces. "You have to look further than the 
environment," said Dr. David R. Wilcox, senior research archeologist at the 
Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. "There is a whole social dimension 
to this process of abandonment that we are only now starting to grapple