Early First Americans once lived in the four corners area where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico meet. Often called “cliff dwellers” because of their homes built into the cliffs, they also lived on top of the plateaus, originally in pit dwellings and later in stone and mud houses. They were in the area from roughly 500 A.D. to 1300 A.D. and developed extensive trade routes and the ceremonial center at Chaco Canyon. When and why they disappeared was a mystery for many years. Modern research shows they were the ancestors of the modern Hopi, Zuni and other Puebloans such as those in Taos and Acoma.
For many years, they were referred to as the Anasazi, a Navajo word that once meant “ancestors of my enemies” and more recently “ancient people.” More recently, they have been called the Ancient Puebloans as they are not the ancestors of the Navajos, relatively late-comers to the area, and their descendants don’t like the Navajo word.
People still debate why they left their homes. Was it drought, environmental destruction or perhaps the pressure of enemies. I believe the massive eruption of the Indonesian volcano Samalas in 1257 was a significant contributor. The Ancient First Americans were still starting new building projects in the 1240s but were mostly gone by 1300. In 2012, researchers determined mass graves in London were probably the result of a famine that occurred after that eruption cooled the earth’s atmosphere for several years. If there was proven famine in Europe, it seems logical to me there might have been famine in North America as well. The timing is right.
On our fall 2018 trip, we revisited Hovenweep National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park and saw Canyon of the Ancients National Monument managed by BLM for the first time. Mesa Verde is famous, and Hovenweep is on paved roads, but we had to take a dirt road to the Lowery Pueblo, We discovered it quite by accident driving in the area. The Bureau of Land Management has done a good job preserving the ruins and making it attractive to visitors, but because it is off the beaten track, we had the place to ourselves.
Click on photos to enlarge.
Date if our visit: 3 October 2018