The Anazazi were pueblo people who lived in the Four Corners area of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. “Anasazi (ah-nuh-SAH-zee) is a Navaho (more correctly, “Diné” or “Dineh”) word which, depending on pronunciation, means either “enemy ancestors” or “ancient people who are not us.” Many modern Puebloan descendants of the Anasazi object to the use of this term. The Hopi use the word Hisatsinom to describe their ancestors. Sometimes the Hopi word Moqui (or Moki), meaning “the dead,” is used.”
The first Europeans to explore the Chaco Canyon in North West Mexico arrived in 1849 led by an army Lieutenant called James Simpson. He concluded that only an advanced civilization could have built the beautiful and well-engineered buildings which he found in ruins. The largest was Pueblo Bonito which stood five stories tall and had several hundred rooms and larger than any apartment building, at the time, in New York city.
Simpson was convinced that such an advance civilization indicated that the Aztec civilization in Mexico must have extended northward. He was, however, incorrect. Twentieth century archaeologists dated the Chaco canyon buildings to the end of the 10th century, well before the Aztecs. Archaeologists were able to estimate the rise of the Anasazi that culminated in these building and determined that they were home grown civilization that “possibly” evolved from a nomadic tribe of hunter gatherers for about 6,000 years. The buildings were so unlike the unsophisticated buildings of the nearby Hopi or any other Native American tribes living in the area that it was even thought that Chaco could be a Roman outpost.
Apparently, all roads didn’t lead to Rome in the 11th century in this part of the world, but many did lead to Pueblo Bonito. Straight and wide roads connected Pueblo Bonito to nine “Great Houses” and to 75 other settlements in and near Chaco canyon. Four hundred miles of roads have been mapped with many of them 30 feet wide spreading in a radius from the canyon center. In addition to hauling building materials It is thought that the roads might also have been used to bring the aggregate of turquoise mined in the area to California and Mexico. The Anasazi conserved water by using had sophisticated irrigation systems using dams, reservoirs, contoured terraces and dikes because of the sandy soil and sparse rainfall.
About 100 years after they built Pueblo Bonito, the Anasazi moved to southwest Colorado and created even more spectacular buildings within the caves that lie in the steep cliffs in the area. Sheltered by the caves, many of these cliff dwellings, including the large Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, are still intact.
The advanced people who built these dwelling were less durable than their cleverly architected buildings. By 1200 Chaco Canyon was abandoned and by 1300 Mesa Verde was also left empty.
What fate befell the Anasazi remains a mystery. There has been plenty of speculation by anthropologists, historians, biologists and others, but the fate of this advanced civilization remains a mystery. Several theories have been discussed such as enemy attacks, drought, an epidemic, or religious strife, but nothing is conclusive.
And yet, “many clans of present-day Indian tribes trace their ancestry to the Anasazi. They say, ‘We are still here!’ There is strong scientific evidence to confirm that the Ancient Ones didn’t mysteriously disappear, but evacuated major cultural centers like Chaco, Mesa Verde and Kayenta over perhaps a hundred years, and joined what are now Hopi and Zuni communities in Arizona and New Mexico and Pueblo villages along the Río Grande.”
Also click on the images to be linked to the National Park Service.