Anasazi are the ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona and occupied that region of the southwest west for well over a thousand years. They were avid farmers, using modern dry farming methods, “relying on water in the soil from melted snow, summer rainstorms and occasional springs” (Ancestral pg).
Their crops included beans, squash, and corn. Modern day dry farming produces roughly 14 bushels of corn per acre, archaeologists estimate the Anasazi produced up to 40 bushels per acre. Huge storerooms for surplus food were prominent features of Anasazi communities. Although, the garden plots attracted game such as rabbits, birds, and mice, they “also hunted deer and elk in the mountains, and antelope and bighorn sheep at lower elevations” (Ancestral pg). Aside from farming and hunting the Anasazi also supplemented their diets with pinon nuts, sunflower and other seeds, and yucca plants.
The Anasazi were industrious, inventive and creative. Their communities consisted of cliff dwellings and pueblos, not unlike modern day apartment and condo style villages (Ancestral pg). As their population grew and new communities began to surface, the Anasazi “exchanged goods through an elaborate trade network” which can be likened to today’s modern commodities trading (Ancestral pg). They traded with other cultures in western North America, bringing exotic items from the Pacific coast and the Gulf of Mexico, passing these goods from group to group (Ancestral pg). Pottery and surplus corn might be traded for other wares. Information was also an important by-product of trade, learning how to make kivas, how to irrigate, make pottery, farming methods, use of bows and arrows, and other vital activities (Ancestral pg). The exchange of information between societies is still prevalent today in certain fields such as science, medicine and technology. “They wove blankets, shirts, robes, aprons, kilts, breechcloths, and belts from vegetal fibers, animal and human hair, and cotton obtained by trade from southern areas” (Ancestral pg).
The Anasazi most likely held private and public ceremonies to benefit the society as a whole, not unlike today’s Pueblos or modern day church ceremonies. However, their religious concepts and events were associated with the nature, unlike most religions today. “Maintaining harmony with the natural world was the key to survival…observation of the sun, moon and stars” indicated planting and harvesting seasons. Today, farmers use almanacs to let them know the proper astrological configuration to plant crops, sheer sheep, butcher hogs, etc.
Although, today’s society has much in common with the Anasazi culture, harmony with nature is a major difference and one that modern society should review and take heed. The Anasazi, as many ancient societies, respected the earth and appreciated what it had to afford them. Today, cultures are based on consumption, not respect.
The Ancestral Pueblos: The Anasazi.” The Anasazi Heritage Center. http://www.co.blm.gov/ahc/anasazi.htm#Who.(accessed 11-11-2002).
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