They attained a high level of culture for their time, then abandoned it all.
Credit: Cherei J. McCarter
They occupied the valleys and plains in the "Four Corners" region of North America, where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet at the corners.
They eventually adapted
into a basket maker culture, clustering together in settlements with
pit houses around 300-700 AD. Then for some reason they felt the
need to change their ways drastically.
The kivas are also associated with the Pueblo and Hopi tribes, connected with their belief in the Kachina spirits. The hatchway was symbolic of the gateway between our world and the "fourth world", realm of the spirits.
The Anasazi may have adopted some of the ritual beliefs from other people coming to the area, since the Kachinas are thought to bring rain and fertility.
These things became very important to them at the end of their culture.
Anasazi pictograph possibly depicting the
Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
The Anasazi studied the stars and developed complex calendars, using astronomical observations to pinpoint the proper times for sowing and harvesting their crops.
Chaco Canyon in New Mexico seems to have been a center for astronomical studies and sacred ceremonies.
They did not have a written language, but left behind beautiful petroglyphs, symbolic art carved into the rocks.
In their final period of development, the Anasazi moved to barely accessible canyons, building cliff houses surrounded by high walls in places with natural springs, such as at Mesa Verde, Colorado. This period of cultural development lasted until around 1300 AD.
Then they seem to have decided to suddenly abandon all their achievements, some even leaving their possessions behind.
Need For Defense?
Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde, Colorado
Photo Credit: Cherei J. McCarter
The Anasazi are often called the "Ancient Ones", but the term comes from a Navajo word meaning "ancestors of our enemies". Archaeologists refer to them as the "Mogollon" culture.
We do not know what they called themselves, but the Hopi claim that the Ancient Ones are their ancestors.
This might give us a clue as to why the Anasazi abruptly left their settlements less than 50 years after accomplishing the amazingly difficult feat of building dwellings sheltered high in canyon cliffs.