Anasazi America: Seventeen Centuries on the Road from Center Place

Overview

At the height of their power in the late eleventh century, the Chaco Anasazi dominated a territory in the American Southwest larger than any European principality of the time. A vast and powerful alliance of thousands of farming hamlets and nearly 100 spectacular towns integrated the region through economic and religious ties, and the whole system was interconnected with hundreds of miles of roads. It took these Anasazi farmers more than seven centuries to lay the agricultural, organizational, and technological ...

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Anasazi America: Seventeen Centuries on the Road from Center Place

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Overview

At the height of their power in the late eleventh century, the Chaco Anasazi dominated a territory in the American Southwest larger than any European principality of the time. A vast and powerful alliance of thousands of farming hamlets and nearly 100 spectacular towns integrated the region through economic and religious ties, and the whole system was interconnected with hundreds of miles of roads. It took these Anasazi farmers more than seven centuries to lay the agricultural, organizational, and technological groundwork for the creation of classic Chacoan civilization, which lasted about 200 years—only to collapse spectacularly in a mere 40.

Why did such a great society collapse? Who survived? Why? In this lively book anthropologist/archaeologist David Stuart presents answers to these questions that offer useful lessons to modern societies. His account of the rise and fall of the Chaco Anasazi brings to life the people known to us today as the architects of Chaco Canyon, the spectacular national park in New Mexico that thousands of tourists visit every year.

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Editorial Reviews

American Archaeology
In a very readable narrative . . . Stuart asserts a general theory of Chaco Canyon—a sophisticated culture that has perplexed archaeologists since its discovery . . . . Anasazi America draws a fascinating dichotomy between modern pueblos and modern America, which has failed to learn history's lessons.
Booklist
Stuart cogently distinguishes between powerful societies, which gain power by using resources inefficiently, and efficient societies, which run frugally but sacrifice wealth and power to do so. The latter societies, he argues, are more resilient when environmental changes or other challenges appear.
Utah Historical Quarterly
David Stuart . . . has made the findings of archaeology directly "relevant" to weighty, modern social and political issues. . . . [This] tale is structured around an interesting model that contrasts power and efficiency as alternative strategies for cultural survival. . . . Stuart's clear and straightforward prose is written to a popular audience, largely free of the technical and philosophical jargon that often suffocates archaeological and anthropological literature.
Denver Westerner's Roundup
In this readable narrative . . . Stuart very effectively deals with the question, then, of why the collapse? . . . this work has an urgent appeal to anyone of us interested in the future of contemporary industrial society . . .
Journal of Anthropological Research
Stuart's message is timely and important, and there is undoubtedly a large public appetite for a book of this scope and accesibility.
Science Magazine
Stuart's book presents fresh insights and arguments that will spur debate, particularly within the already contentious field of Chaco scholarship. . . Anasazi America still succeeds in melding an often opaque past into our own often disquieting present.
From The Critics
At the height of their power in the late 11th Century, the Chaco Anasazi dominated a territory in the American Southwest that was larger than any European nation at the time. The Anasazi enjoyed a vast and powerful alliance of thousands of farming hamlets and nearly one hundred major towns integrated through economic and religious ties, with the whole system being interconnected with hundreds of miles of roads. It took the Anasazi more than seven centuries to lay the agricultural, organizational, and technological groundwork for the creation of classic Chacoan civilization. Only to have it last a mere two hundred years and completely collapse in 40 years. Anasazi America explains what such a great society collapsed, who survived the collapse, how they survived, and what useful lessons modern societies can draw from the Anasazi experience. Anasazi America is a superb written contribution to Native American studies and reading lists.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826321794
  • Publisher: University of New Mexico Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2000
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 721,658
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

David E. Stuart, the first student in the State of West Virginia to earn a degree in Anthropology, came to UNM in '67/'68 where he earned the Masters and Ph.D. and, later, an honorary doctorate from WVa Wesleyan College. He has conducted fieldwork in Mexico, Alaska, Ecuador, and the American Southwest, where he continues to publish in both Anthropology and Archaeology. He served the University of New Mexico as a senior academic administrator for many years, and still teaches the Archaeology of New Mexico.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2000

    Excellent book!

    Great book! I highly recommend it. The last chapter is especially thought provoking when Stuart compares the past with contemporary America. Must read for policy wonks and any American who cares about the direction of the country and how we change it for the better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2000

    More than an anthropology book!

    Take a ride along any major new road in your area and observe the width and scope of this grand exercise in road engineering and construction. Do the same for any new public buildings being built nearby. Then come home and curl up in a comfy chair with a copy of Anasazi America, anthropologist David Stuart's epic story of the generations of Pueblo people who have lived in the Four Corners area over the past 10,000 years. Dr. Stuart tells the Pueblo people's saga from hunting and gathering beginnings, through the advent of agriculture and evolution to Chacoan agribusiness, to the bold Chaco Phenomenon that resulted in the monumental infrastructure of magnificent public buildings and wide roads, grand religious rituals and an extensive trading network and market based economy. He then describes the growth of the population, followed by periods of drought and climate change which resulted in malnutrition and other public health problems. He goes on to trace a stratification of society that widened the gulf between the privileged elites and the working class people and the decisions to direct the efforts of the people to building the massive public infrastructure at the expense of basic needs such as the growing of food. The culmination of these factors finally resulted in the collapse of this great society. During the centuries that followed the collapse of the Chacoan empire, the Puebloan people survived the resulting chaos and were able to build successful communities through a strategy based on efficiency rather than power. The story then shifts to the present and in one incredible and profound chapter, Stuart suggests that there are many parallels between America in the 21st century and the late Chacoan era that may foretell events in our future. This is a very important book that should be widely read. It should be read by New Mexicans because it has much to teach us about ourselves. It should be read by all Americans because it gives us a glimpse of the challenges that are on the horizon and suggests the broad changes Americans will need to make if we are to survive another millennium.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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