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Anasazi America

Seventeen Centuries on the Road from Center Place

David E. Stuart

Publication Year: 2000

At the height of their power in the late eleventh century, the Chaco Anasazi dominated a territory in the American Southwest larger than any European principality of the time. A vast and powerful alliance of thousands of farming hamlets and nearly 100 spectacular towns integrated the region through economic and religious ties, and the whole system was interconnected with hundreds of miles of roads. It took these Anasazi farmers more than seven centuries to lay the agricultural, organizational, and technological groundwork for the creation of classic Chacoan civilization, which lasted about 200 years--only to collapse spectacularly in a mere 40.

Why did such a great society collapse? Who survived? Why? In this lively book anthropologist/archaeologist David Stuart presents answers to these questions that offer useful lessons to modern societies. His account of the rise and fall of the Chaco Anasazi brings to life the people known to us today as the architects of Chaco Canyon, the spectacular national park in New Mexico that thousands of tourists visit every year.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

First and foremost, I want to thank the students in my spring 1998 “Ancient New Mexico” course for the most stimulating episode of my teaching career. They are Ryan Bartell, Tod Dikeman, Kenneth Duncan, Sam Duran, Kevin Eklund, Emily Fowler,...

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pp. xiii-xvi

The general theme of this book began as a brief keynote address made at the seventieth annual Pecos Conference, held at Chaco Canyon in August 1997. I delivered that address, “The Rise and Fall of the Chaco Anasazi: Lessons Learned,” with...

Prologue: Daniel’s Question

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pp. 3-6

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1 The Rhythms of Civilization

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pp. 7-12

This book reconstructs the rise and fall of the Chaco Anasazi of New Mexico. It is about how ancient farmers in the American Southwest gathered the knowledge and power to create the grandest regional social and political system in prehistoric North...

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2 The Roots of Anasazi Society

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pp. 13-34

No one knows precisely when the ancient Indian people who would one day be called Anasazi first arrived in the Four Corners. To determine that, one would have to know much more about the early peopling of the Americas, which is not really the subject of this...

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3 The Role of Agriculture

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pp. 35-50

Providence, albeit modest, came in two forms, one from the heavens and one from neighbors to the south. First, the weather got wetter. Greater precipitation generally characterized the period from about 2000 B.C. to 500 B.C.1 This reduced some of the pressure...

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4 The Rise of the Chaco Anasazi

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pp. 51-64

As population increased and vast open lands became scarcer, the Basketmakers’ strategy of combining agriculture with foraging during the off seasons began to lose its edge. Agricultural experiments that had come easily and at little economic risk...

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5 The Chaco Phenomenon

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pp. 65-106

If it is true that “the gods help those who help themselves,” then at A.D. 1000 the Chaco Anasazi were overdue for such intervention. Collectively, they had invested incalculable toil, sweat, and care in first developing, then sustaining their agricultural...

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6 The Fall of Chacoan Society

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pp. 107-124

In Chacoan times, daily life in the great houses contrasted dramatically with the quotidian realm of the farmsteads. Though most of the great houses were modeled on farmstead architecture, and the rhythms of the seasons were the same for both, the...

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7 The Upland Period

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pp. 125-146

The far-flung trade network that had characterized the Chaco phenomenon for more than a century vanished quickly. As infant mortality and abandonments destroyed their open communities, farmers stopped making pottery to trade. The vast expanses...

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8 The Creation of Pueblo Society

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pp. 147-178

Even as some farmers lingered in a few upland villages located in favorable settings, such as Tyuonyi at Bandelier, others were displaced by the droughts and moved on as the thirteenth century drew to a close. The decline of upland society and the...

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9 Enduring Communities

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pp. 179-202

Several Spanish expeditions from Mexico had already nibbled at the edges of the Puebloan world before a party commanded by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado arrived at Zuni in July 1540 and “took” the pueblo.1 Unfortunately for the Puebloans,...

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Epilogue: The Spirit of Community

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pp. 203-204

Daniel, this is your ancestors’ story, told as I perceive it through the filter of my own culture. It is a remarkable journey that your people have taken in the 17 centuries since they became farmers and invented the first stable communities to exist in the Southwest....


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pp. 205-216


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pp. 217-218

Suggested Readings

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pp. 219-220

References Cited

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pp. 221-238


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pp. 239-247

Biographical Note

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pp. 248

E-ISBN-13: 9780826318022
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826321794

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2000