Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Anasazi

A detailed article on the Anasazi in today's Science Times reminded me of the photographs of Stephen Durbin (a physicist turned photographer and my colleague on the blog Art and Perception). His writings on the Anasazi first bought news of this civilization to my knowledge and I remember them every time I hear phrases like 'forgotten peoples' or 'lost civilization', I am reminded of them.

Stephen also sells the evocative photographs he takes and I must add - modestly priced at that (wow, never knew I could write sales pitch – no, that was not one - just an honest endorsement).

The photograph below was one that Swapna and I purchased from Stephen earlier this year.

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.

Why, in the late 13th century, did thousands of Anasazi abandon Kayenta, Mesa Verde and the other magnificent settlements of the Colorado Plateau and move south into Arizona and New Mexico? Scientists once thought the answer lay in impersonal factors like the onset of a great drought or a little ice age. But as evidence accumulates, those explanations have come to seem too pat — and slavishly deterministic. Like people today, the Anasazi (or Ancient Puebloans, as they are increasingly called) were presumably complex beings with the ability to make decisions, good and bad, about how to react to a changing environment. They were not pawns but players in the game.

Looking beyond climate change, some archaeologists are studying the effects of warfare and the increasing complexity of Anasazi society. They are looking deeper into ancient artifacts and finding hints of an ideological struggle, clues to what was going through the Anasazi mind.

A black and white photograph of an Anasazi settlement - photograph by Stephen Durbin. A copy graces the walls of our home.

No comments: