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History of the Pueblo Indians (cont.)

  Wilson Hurley - Anasazi Castle
Anasazi Castle
Wilson Hurley

Anasazi  Indian religion was pantheistic, meaning they worshipped many Gods.  They were a very spiritual people, and they were also very socially structured, they were a matrilineal society (their lineage being determined by the mother's side of the family), and were also an egalitarian society in which each tribe member had the same rights.  The families inhabiting each Pueblo were divided into various clans, e.g. "the Corn Clan" or "Turquoise Clan", each of these clans was allotted equal space for farming, and dwelling, and each member would be on rotation for making important decisions concerning the Pueblo government.  While the Pueblos were separate, there were communal places such as kivas, which were underground chambers where all clans came to engage in rituals of worship.

From studying mummified bodies found in the ruins of the Pueblos, anthropologists were able to determine the physical appearance of  the Anasazi.  They were somewhat short in stature, the men on average measuring 5'5", and the women measuring 5'.  They were mostly heavy-set individuals, and had peculiar shaped heads, in that the back of their skulls were flattened.  This mystery was later solved when it was determined that their skulls took on this unusual shape from infancy, as the Anasazi newborns were carried on flat boards strapped to their mother's backs; since a baby's skull is still soft for weeks following its birth, it is quite possible this method of carrying the child would have been the cause of this developmental trait.  Another unusual trait which was also found on people of Asian descent was that of flattened, shovel-like incisors, raising many questions about the possible origins of the Anasazi, who were believed to have been the descendents of Aztec colonizers of the region.

Most Anasazi Indians did not live past the age of forty, and there was an extremely high mortality rate amongst infants, reaching up to fifty percent of children under the age of three; perhaps this was due to the hot and arid climate of the area, disease or perhaps many other, still unexplained factors.

Although theirs seemed to be a most efficiently run society, the 14th century saw the rapid decline of the Anasazi empire.  The real cause for the decline of this enigmatic and impressive civilization is still the subject of debate amongst archaeologists and anthropologists, who have brought forth a multitude of theories ranging from warfare with other tribes, to a mass exodus brought on by a new religion Kachina, which was being practiced in the south.  Perhaps the most widely accepted theory is that of a great drought, which brought on famine, a theory which would be consistent with archaeological findings of  skeletons showing signs of malnutrition, and the abundance of infant and children's bones.  ear in mind that  most of the theories on offer are based on analysis of Anasazi pottery and other archaeological finds, so most are based on speculation.

A highly controversial issue which has been brought on by recent findings, is the possibility that there may have been incidents of cannibalism amongst the Anasazi. While scientists aren't certain as to the cause of such behavior, whether it be from famine or ritual, many remains were found which featured marks left by tools which may have been used to cut flesh and break bones, and many of the bones found showed signs of scorching, or boiling.  However grisly this may seem, there have been several historically documented cases of cannibalism due to starvation, and since it is believed that a major drought may have been the main factor behind the near extinction of the Anasazi, and that most of the settlements where the evidence was found showed signs of having been abandoned soon thereafter, this theory may not be so far fetched.

 

 

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