Cover image for Anasazi America : seventeen centuries on the road from center place
Anasazi America : seventeen centuries on the road from center place
Stuart, David E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xvi, 248 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1460 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E99.P9 S83 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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At the height of their power in the late eleventh century, the Chaco Anasazi dominated a territory in the American Southwest larger than any European principality of the time. A vast and powerful alliance of thousands of farming hamlets and nearly 100 spectacular towns integrated the region through economic and religious ties, and the whole system was interconnected with hundreds of miles of roads. It took these Anasazi farmers more than seven centuries to lay the agricultural, organizational, and technological groundwork for the creation of classic Chacoan civilization, which lasted about 200 years -- only to collapse spectacularly in a mere 40.

Why did such a great society collapse? Who survived? Why? In this lively book anthropologist/archaeologist David Stuart presents answers to these questions that offer useful lessons to modern societies. His account of the rise and fall of the Chaco Anasazi brings to life the people known to us today as the architects of Chaco Canyon, the spectacularnational park in New Mexico that thousands of tourists visit every year.

Chaco's failure, Stuart argues, was a failure to adapt to the consequences of rapid growth. Foremost among Chacoans' problems were misuse of farmland, malnutrition, loss of community, and inability to deal with climatic catastrophe. The descendants of the Anasazi, the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest, adapted strategically to minimize the impact of these problems. Stuart sees the contrasting fates of the Anasazi and their Pueblo descendants as a parable for modern societies.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Aveni and Stuart bring archaeology to life in their books on the mysteries of two ancient American civilizations. The lines in the desert on Peru's Nasca plateau have been called everything from simple roads to UFO landing fields. Aveni has conducted substantial research in the area and surveys, most readably, the many different theories and theorists as well as the designs made by the lines. From the air, the lines look like drawings of huge animals and geometrical figures as well as straight roads or runways--a resemblance that provoked the landing-field hypothesis, because who besides aliens in UFOs would have needed landing strips centuries ago? Aveni and his associates took a radical but commonsensical stance on the lines by viewing them at ground level, as ancient humans would have done (OK--unless they were abductees). Aveni tells an altogether gripping story that is rather like a mystery novel, and he offer his own theory, that the marks were the results of ritual practices, while summarizing the others. Stuart is curious about the ancient cliff-dwelling Anasazi of the U.S. Southwest. What caused their flourishing civilization to abruptly disappear? Stuart cogently distinguishes between powerful societies, which gain power by using resources inefficiently, and efficient societies, which run frugally but sacrifice wealth and power to do so. The latter societies, he argues, are more resilient when environmental changes or other challenges appear. Powerful civilizations like the Anasazi are less flexible and tend to collapse in the face of external pressures. Stuart draws on substantial and comprehensive research on the Anasazi to illuminate his argument. So doing, he also sheds light on questions about modern American society's use of resources and the future it may either promise or threaten. --Patricia Monaghan

Choice Review

This book records the rise and fall of the prehistoric Chaco Anasazi civilization (New Mexico) and proposes explanations for its demise based on a thorough and detailed review and analysis of copious hard archaeological evidence. To Stuart, the strength of both Chaco Anasazi and today's Pueblo cultures is their overall adaptive resilience brought about by emphasis on what Stuart calls the "enduring community" principle--values based on and protected by private indigenous religious sentiments. Stuart argues that contemporary global civilization is sorely lacking in the qualities that comprise durability. Because durability equals survivability, Stuart proposes that the Chaco Anasazi experience might inform the present--resource overuse and loss of community are too often facts of the contemporary American experience. An added strength of the book is its ability to link past causation with present world conditions in an informed and energetic style that will reach both lay and professional readers. Recommended. S. R. Martin; Michigan Technological University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. XI
Prefacep. XIII
Prologue Daniel's Questionp. 3
Chapter 1 The Rhythms of Civilizationp. 7
Chapter 2 The Roots of Anasazi Societyp. 13
Chapter 3 The Role of Agriculturep. 35
Chapter 4 The Rise of the Chaco Anasazip. 51
Chapter 5 The Chaco Phenomenonp. 65
Chapter 6 The Fall of Chacoan Societyp. 107
Chapter 7 The Upland Periodp. 125
Chapter 8 The Creation of Pueblo Societyp. 147
Chapter 9 Enduring Communitiesp. 179
Epiloguep. 203
Notesp. 205
Glossaryp. 217
Suggested Readingsp. 219
References Citedp. 221
Indexp. 239
Biographical Notep. 248