White House Ruin
I took this photo from the bottom of Canyon de Chelly, in Arizona. These buildings, called the White House Ruin
, were built around 1200 AD. A bit later, the civilization that built them disappeared!
They're called the Anasazi, or Ancient Pueblo People
. Starting around 800 AD, they started building great houses
: multi-storied buildings with high ceilings, rooms much larger than you'd see in houses, and elaborate subterranean rooms called kivas
. And around 900 AD, they started building houses with stone roofs. We call this the start of the Pueblo II Era
For a long time their civilization was centered in Chaco Canyon, in New Mexico, 125 kilometers east of Canyon de Chelly. Their biggest great house was founded in the 800s. Starting in 1020 it grew immensely, and it kept growing until 1120. By this time it had 700 rooms, nearly half devoted to grain storage. It also had 33 kivas.
But this was just one of a dozen great houses built in Chaco Canyon by 1120. About 215 thousand ponderosa pine trees were cut down in this building spree! Building these houses probably took over 2 million man-hours of work. They also built about 650 kilometers of roads! Most of these connect one great house to another… but some mysteriously seem to go to ‘nowhere’.
By 1080, however, the summer rainfall had started to decline. And by 1090 there were serious summer drought lasting for five years. We know this sort of thing from tree rings: there are enough ponderosa logs and the like that archaeologists have built up a detailed year-by-year record.
Starting around 1100 AD, many of the ancient Pueblo people left the Chaco Canyon area. Many moved upland, to places with more rain and snow. Instead of great houses, many returned to building the simpler pit houses of old.
By 1150 AD, some of the ancient Pueblo people began building cliff dwellings at higher elevations—like Mesa Verde in Colorado This marks the start of the Pueblo III Era
. The settlements in Canyon de Chelly, shown here, date to 1200. But this era lasted a short time. By 1350, all these cliff dwellings were abandoned!
The people didn't leave... they're still around. But they stopped building large settlements. Why? For some answers, read my article:http://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/anasazi-america-part-2/ #archaeology #history