Chaco Canyon Mysteries

Why The Anasazi Abandoned Their Cities

The Anasazi became masters of pottery, astronomy, and architecture during their time. As master agriculturalists, they developed intricate irrigation systems which fed huge fields of maize, beans, and squash. They built complex structures of stone and earth that rise high above the ground and perched in cliff faces. Other structures were sprawled on the desert floor and arranged meticulously in accordance with the heavens. This led to the emergence of a distinct culture that is bound by religion and tradition, all of which contributed to the population boom.

The Mysterious Collapse

Near the end of the 12th century, the Anasazi’s advanced society suddenly started to collapse. In a single sweeping and inexplicable exodus, the people, at their golden age of existence, fled their ancestral homelands. A majority of the group even decided to leave their possessions behind. These include their pottery and tools. Some sites also showed signs of burning including burned homes and ceremonial structures. This abrupt migration has, for several decades, baffled researchers who felt challenged in searching for answers.

The Drought Theory

A number of theories have been made to explain the Anasazi’s sudden abandonment of their cities. One of the earliest and arguably the most popular theories is the drought theory. By examining the tree rings, scientists discovered that in the late 13th century, a long dry spell began to afflict the southwest. Otherwise known as the “Great Drought,” this dry spell had, for decades, become the most widely-accepted answer to the mystery of the Anasazi’s abandonment of their homelands. It only showed that the civilization had no choice but to move on to greener pastures in order to survive.

Nomadic Raiders Theory

Early explorers have speculated that the Anasazi were driven out of their homeland by nomadic raiders. However, this theory was contradicted by William Lipe, an archaeologist of Washington State University. According to Lipe, the area showed no evidence of nomadic tribes Pueblo Bonito chaco book in the 13th century. He noted how the area was one of the world’s most thoroughly investigated regions. If it was true that nomads had come to drive out several thousands of people, they must have left behind a huge number of archaeological evidence.

The Legend of The Castle Rock

A legend says that around a thousand years ago, there were savage strangers from the north who visited the pueblo. Although the villagers treated them with kindness, these newcomers started to forage upon them and eventually massacred the people and devastated the farms. Out of desperation, the Anasazi built their houses high on the cliffs where they could hide away from the raiders and store their food. However, their plan wasn’t successful. A month-long battle occurred wherein the survivors had to run south with no plans of returning.




The Supernova Theory

On July 4, 1054, a supernova was recorded to have exploded across the sky. The explosion remained visible for 23 days and for 24 hours a day. A couple of years later, Halley’s comet was observed to have soared past the earth. These phenomena are believed to be depicted in Chaco Canyon. Perhaps the Anasazi have perceived the two incidents as omens or signs that told them they should leave before it was too late.


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