Message #28:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Southwest at Last Turn of Millennium
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 97 13:09:00 MST
Encoding: 45 TEXT

Southwest was thriving at last turn of millennium -- The year 1000 was a 
bleak one for Europe, with the era's gargoyles symbolizing its peoples' 
fears for the second millennium. But in New Mexico, where the Christian 
calendar was unknown, civilization was thriving, says a Santa Fe 
archaeologist. George Gumerman, a Santa Fe Institute staffer specializing in 
Southwestern archaeology, says things "exploded" between A.D. 900 and 1000 
in New Mexico and other parts of the Southwest. "We see an increase in 
experimentation with different forms of social life," he said.  "Anything 
could go and did. It was the period where the population was starting to 
boom."  Corn and squash had come into what is now the U.S. Southwest from 
what is now Mexico several centuries before Christ, and beans a few 
centuries later. But, Gumerman said, "It was about 1000 A.D. before the 
population reached a point that people could organize themselves differently 
to exploit these new kinds of resources. "It was a time when the environment 
was very benevolent," he said. "They could try everything and it worked." 
Gumerman said Chaco and Mimbres cultures of New Mexico had centralized 
villages and hundreds of farming communities. In the Phoenix and Tucson 
aeas, inhabitants were building complex canal systems and temples. 
Pre-Pueblo settlements had been established by 1000, but "the Rio Grande 
valley was sort of backwards," he said. "This was probably because things 
were pretty good here." "Places under stress," like the arid Chaco canyon, 
"took a lead in developing complexity," Gumerman said. By 1100, the 
population seemed to reach a peak. "Every area that could be covered was 
covered," he said. Cities grew "bigger and more centralized." By 1150, the 
population of the Southwest began to decline. From the changes in the number 
of kivas and rooms, "We see evidence that people were moving out of higher 
areas into lower, better-watered regions," he said. "There were fewer 
experimentations in how villages were organized." Gumerman said that while 
environmental changes like less rainfall may have contributed to the 
decline, other evidence points to some sort of social change such as 
prestigious clans deciding to go elsewhere. He said that by 1250 many 
villages were abandoned. Approaching the third millennium, "We tend to think 
in terms of catastrophes rather than opportunities," Gumerman said. "But 
look at the incredible resiliency of the Pueblo people." He recalled how he 
once helped excavate a pit house that had been built in the 800s and 
abandoned after a fire in the 900s: "On the floor was a bowl and on the 
inside of the bowl was a picture of a group of people holding hands. There 
was a Hopi maiden with a butterfly hairstyle like the ones you still see 
there today."
May 9, 1996 by Tom Sharpe of the Albuquerque Journal