Cultural Anthropology

The Disappearance of the Anasazi



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"The Disappearance of the Anasazi"
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According to researcher Jack Hartung, late in June, 1178, Gervase of Canterbury, an acquaintance of Archbishop Thomas Becket, and a chronicler, wrote the following tale about a meteor striking the moon:

"From the midpoint of this division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals, and sparks. Meanwhile, the body of the moon which was below writhed, as it were, in anxiety.This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to normal.
Then after these transformations the moon from horn to horntook on a blackish appearance. The present writer was given this report by men who saw it with their own eyes"

Unknown to Gervase, far from Canterbury, a group of Native Americans, skilled in astronomy, resided in the Chaco Canyon region of what is now New Mexico in the United States. They are referred to as the Anasazi, a Navajo word explaining and designating this group. In the Navajo language, the meaning of "Anasazi" is "Enemy Ancestors", or a people whose ancestors were our enemy. The actual name of this group of Native Americans is unknown.

The Anasazi resided in the Chaco Canyon region for approximately 7,000 years. Based upon the name given to them by the Navajo, it can be inferred that the Navajo and the Anasazi did not co-exist peacefully for many of these years. By the late 11th Century, however, even the Navajo openly traded with the Anasazi, to the mutual benefit of both groups.

The Chaco Canyon region had become a major trading center in the New World, one with extensive contacts with Native American groups in Mexico, as well as with the Navajo. In addition to the burgeoning trade which they had established, the Anasazi excelled in tending the many gardens they grew throughout the Chaco Canyon region. New pottery techniques were introduced. It appeared as though the prosperity of the Anasazi would continue for many years.

According to archaeologists, beginning possibly as early as 1150 A.D., the Anasazi suddenly began to leave the Chaco Canyon region, in stark contrast to their apparent prosperity. By 1300 A.D., they had completely abandoned the Chaco Canyon, leaving evidence of an impressive civilization behind them.

It is known that a climate change occurred during this time, which affected the rainfall on which the Anasazi relied for their crops. It is thought, without enough food to sustain their population, this is why the Anasazi began to leave.

The Anasazi left no written record behind them. According to Native American tradition, however, they drew pictures on the walls of the canyons, referred to as pictographs.

On a pictograph in Canyon de Chelly, human figures are depicted with livestock, or game, which would also have been affected by the drought-like conditions. There is a pictograph near the Canyon del Muerto, however, that depicts a celestial event that the Anasazi considered significant enough to record prior to departing from the Chaco Canyon region forever.

The fact that the Anasazi were skilled astronomers is not disputed, even though no one knows it they developed these skills on their own or imported the skills as a by-product of the trade that they conducted. The pictograph that was left behind shows two human figures, one with hands extended towards the sky, underneath three objects in the sky. The three objects are drawn next to a natural incline on the face of the rock wall, which may have been done to illustrate a point.

The celestial object at the highest point along the incline is colored yellow, like the sun, but deliberately flattened along the top, probably to emphasize the brightness of the object and to designate that it is not the sun. In keeping with this, an object appears in the center of the yellow area, the object responsible for the yellow which surrounds it. The rounded portion of the yellow is surrounded by another circle. The outer circle may have designated motion, indicating that this was a slowly, steadily moving object.

The center celestial object along the incline is a very small object with four circles around it, which may have indicated a rapidly moving object. It is this object which has been given the greatest emphasis by the artist, who deeply emphasized the lines around it, giving it a certain prominence. The lowest celestial object appears almost like the moon and has four circles around it as well.

The entire pictograph occurs alongside what is possibly an earlier version of this event, one which was somewhat "erased" from the wall, similar to erasing something from a blackboard, in order to change what is on it. The "erased" pictograph depicts two small objects with circles surrounding them on either side of an object that resembles the moon, which is simply depicted without extra circles surrounding it.

It appears that, perhaps, the petroglyphs, which the Anasazi left behind, may corroborate the tale of Gervase of Canterbury, by indicating a meteor strike on the moon, prior to the climate change which required the Anasazi to move from its home after approximately 7,000 years of habitation. Their departure is known to have occurred during this time period. Since the Anasazi left no written records, it is open to interpretation. That the Anasazi would have left the petroglyph behind them, during the period immediately following the incident of the tale of Gervase, however, is an extremely intriguing concept.






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