The Anasazi Indians, also known as the ancient people are the ones that historians and researchers give credit to for the fascinating cliff pueblos found throughout the Four Corners area of what is now Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.
As they headed south in search of rain, the Anasazi left behind trails of pottery and architecture. For 1,000 years, long before Columbus, the Anasazi Indians were lords of what’s now the American Southwest. Then, apparently without warning, the Anasazi all but disappeared.
They still hunted animals like deer, rabbits and prairie dogs. And they gathered wild plants for sustenance. The nuts of the piñon pine were eaten roasted or ground. They ate the ripe fruit of the banana yucca and dried the red fruit from the prickly pear cactus for later consumption.
The Anasazi tribe was also noted for their unique skills as village dwelling farmers. In addition, the Anasazi people were very crafty in the production of foods, through the use of dry farming (relying on melted snow and rain) and ditch irrigation.
The Anasazi, or ancient ones, who once inhabited southwest Colorado and west-central New Mexico did not mysteriously disappear, said University of Denver professor Dean Saitta at Tuesday’s Fort Morgan Museum Brown Bag lunch program. The Anasazi, Saitta said, live today as the Rio Grande Pueblo, Hopi and Zuni Indians.
But Turner contends that a “band of thugs” – Toltecs, for whom cannibalism was part of religious practice – made their way to Chaco Canyon from central Mexico. These invaders used cannibalism to overwhelm the unsuspecting Anasazi and terrorize the populace into submission over a period of 200 years.
There was no evidence of the formal burial that was the Anasazi norm—bodies arranged in a fetal position and placed in the ground with pottery, fetishes and other grave goods.
In addition to the drought and marauding enemy theories, scientists suggest that things like poor sanitation, pests, and environmental degradation may have caused the Anasazi to move.
This group then took control of the peaceful Anasazi farmers and forced them to pay tribute of food and labor for building the Great Houses and road system. According to this theory, the warrior-priests performed horrific rituals of human sacrifice and cannibalism to terrorize the Anasazi into accepting their rule.
Anasazi as a cultural label The name ” Anasazi ” has come to mean “ancient people,” although the word itself is Navajo, meaning “enemy ancestors.” [The Navajo word is anaasází (<anaa- “enemy”, sází “ancestor”).]
The Anasazi evolved from a nomadic people. The Anasazi made use of Kivas, large stone reservoirs, to store water for domestic and agricultural use. Check dams and stone terraces were used to prevent erosion and grow crops and the planting of flood planes allowed crops to grow with minimal irrigation or rainfall.
The people were sedentary horticulturalists who lived in pit houses in the early part of the tradition and in above ground adobe or stone houses or apartment blocks in the later part of the tradition. They grew corn, squash, and beans but also relied on wild plants and animals. Turkeys were domesticated.
As early as A.D. 350, but aggressively from around 700-750, the Anasazi began to build above-ground structures of mud (jacal or adobe) and stone. They gradually raised the floor to ground level.
Because they lived in the desert, they had very little rainfall. When it did rain, the Anasazi would store their water in ditches. They used this to water their crops in the field.
For 1,000 years, from about A.D. 500 until their dispersal around 1500, the Anasazi, whose name is a Navajo word that means “the ancient ones,” lived in pueblos and cliff dwellings built in the canyons and high mesas of the Four Corners region (where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet).