Vanished - Poem by gershon hepner
Gradually the people vanished.
Long before the place was Spanished
the Anasazi disappeared,
and they no longer persevered
to fight against the cold and drought,
achieving ultimate burnout
despite the fact they tried to change,
because climate changed. We are more strange
than them when you consider how
to oil, gas, coal we all kowtow,
refusing to adapt although
the mountain tops have lost their snow,
and glaciers melt and deserts form
where pastureland was once the norm.
Salado polychrome they left
behind them. What, bereft
of fossil fuel will we all leave?
Faith in ourselves that we believe
can save us like a deus ex
machina won’t! We’re living in a nex-
us, us, the USA, the world,
which like the Anasazi, won’t
survive, since earth consumers don’t
adapt to changes, and compete
with one another to defeat
the planet. Ruins of the Reeve
we’ll leave behind, I do believe:
before the fossil fuel is gone,
there will be nowhere to move on.
Inspired by an article on the disappearance of the Anasazi by George Johnson (“Vanished: A Pueblo Mystery, ” NYT, April 8,2008) :
Perched on a lonesome bluff above the dusty San Pedro River, about 30 miles east of Tucson, the ancient stone ruin archaeologists call the Davis Ranch Site doesn’t seem to fit in. Staring back from the opposite bank, the tumbled walls of Reeve Ruin are just as surprising. Some 700 years ago, as part of a vast migration, a people called the Anasazi, driven by God knows what, wandered from the north to form settlements like these, stamping the land with their own unique style. “Salado polychrome, ” says a visiting archaeologist turning over a shard of broken pottery. Reddish on the outside and patterned black and white on the inside, it stands out from the plainer ware made by the Hohokam, whose territory the wanderers had come to occupy. These Anasazi newcomers — archaeologists have traced them to the mesas and canyons around Kayenta, Ariz., not far from the Hopi reservation — were distinctive in other ways. They liked to build with stone (the Hohokam used sticks and mud) , and their kivas, like those they left in their homeland, are unmistakable: rectangular instead of round, with a stone bench along the inside perimeter, a central hearth and a sipapu, or spirit hole, symbolizing the passage through which the first people emerged from mother earth.“You could move this up to Hopi and not tell the difference, ” said John A. Ware, the archaeologist leading the field trip, as he examined a Davis Ranch kiva. Finding it down here is a little like stumbling across a pagoda on the African veldt….
Some archaeologists have proposed that colder weather contributed to the downfall. Measurements of the thickness of pollen layers, accumulating over decades on the bottom of lakes and bogs, suggest that growing seasons were becoming shorter. But even when paired with drought, the combination may have been less than a decisive blow. Soon after the abandonment, the drought lifted. “The tree-ring reconstructions show that at 1300 to 1340 it was exceedingly wet, ” said Larry Benson, a paleoclimatologist with the Arid Regions Climate Project of the United States Geological Survey. “If they’d just hung in there...” Though the rains returned, the people never did. “Why didn’t they come back? ” said Catherine M. Cameron, an archaeologist at the University of Colorado. “Why didn’t anyone come back to the northern San Juan? It was a fine place, and apparently by 1300 it was very fine.” In the remains of Sand Canyon Pueblo, in the Mesa Verde region, Kristin A. Kuckelman of the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, Colo., sees the story of a tragic rise and fall. As crops withered, the inhabitants reverted from farming maize and domesticating turkeys to hunting and gathering. Defensive fortifications were erected to resist raiders.
By studying changes in ceremonial architecture and pottery styles, Donna Glowacki, an archaeologist at the University of Notre Dame, is charting the rise of what may have been a new puebloan religion. For more than a century, the established faith was distinguished by multistory “great houses, ” with small interior kivas, and by much larger “great kivas” — round, mostly subterranean and covered with a sturdy roof. Originating at Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico, the formidable temples seem designed to limit access to all but a priestly few. Though Chaco declined as a regional religious center during the early 1100s, the same architecture spread to the Mesa Verde area. But by the mid 1200s, a different style was also taking hold, with plazas and kivas that were uncovered like amphitheaters — hints, perhaps, of a new openness. At some sites, serving bowls became larger and were frequently decorated with designs, as though intended for a ritual communion. If the pueblo people had left a written history perhaps we would read of the Anasazi equivalent of the Protestant reformation. But the analogy can’t be pushed too far. The new architecture also included multiwalled edifices — some round, some D-shaped — that might have been chambers for secret rituals.. In an effort to draw together the skein of causes and effects, Dr. Kohler and members of the Village Ecodynamics Project are collaborating with archaeologists at Crow Canyon on a computer simulation of population changes in southwest Colorado from 600 to around 1300. Juxtaposing data on rainfall, temperature, soil productivity, human metabolic needs and diet, gleaned from an analysis of trash heaps and human waste, the model suggests a sobering conclusion: As Anasazi society became more complex, it also became more fragile. Corn was domesticated and then wild turkeys, an important protein source. With more to eat, the populations grew and aggregated into villages. Religious and political institutions sprung up. When crops began dying and violence increased, the inhabitants clustered even closer. By the time the drought of 1275 hit, the Anasazi had become far more dependent on agriculture than during earlier droughts. And they had become more dependent on each other. “You can’t easily peel off a lineage here and a lineage there and have them go their own way, ” Dr. Kohler said. “These parts are no longer redundant. They’re part of an integrated whole.” Pull one thread and the whole culture unwinds. Amid the swirl of competing explanations, one thing is clear: The pueblo people didn’t just dry up and blow away like so much parched corn. They restructured their societies, tried to adapt and when all else failed they moved on.
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