Anasazi Civilization Collapse

Project by Maria Fägerstål and Jackson Butler


Because of the location of the Anasazi Empire, it ultimately collapsed due to environmental and social conditions.
Big image


Though there are many theories of the Anasazi Empire's collapse, he most popular theory is that the empire took too many hits from the drought. This event was dubbed "The Great Drought". The empire was located in what is known as the Four Corners region of the American southwest. In this area, it is an extremely parched, warm climate and has the geographic features of a desert. It is very likely that this was the main factor of the end to this civilization because even today, the climate is very similar to what it was then. This cycle of drought began at the civilization's peak. Communities were highly populated and needed a large amount of food resources in order to continue to live in this unstable area. Even with the small periods of rain there was before the drought, there was barely enough to water the existing crops. Without the usual rains to grow agriculture, famine spread. The rains were highly unpredictable but for a long period of time, there was almost no rain falling on the Anasazi region. With a large portion of the Anasazi getting food from agricultural means, a drought largely would impact the society's needs for food. Migration occurred in large numbers because of this and the empire was thrust into a long period of decline after the drought and famine. The famine had even lead to cannibalism due to the lack of food. The civilization had died out by the late 1300s.
Big image
The chart above shows the malnutrition of bones of inhabitants, proving the drought theory.

Raids from other Tribes

Another large factor in the Anasazi Empire's collapse was raids from enemy tribes. The Anasazi were found to have been enemies with the Navajo and Apache. Dr. Michael Adler, an archaeologist a Southern Methodist University said, "The Anasazi developed elaborate water catchments. And diverting water may have led to conflict and war"(The Ancient Pueblo). There are also theories that ancient Mexican religious gangs would come in and use cannibalism as a weapon per se. The Anasazi were certainly in no condition to go to war or even have enemies with impending an impending environmental and natural resource downfall. The word Anasazi itself is Navajo, meaning "ancient enemies". The raids by these tribes forced the Anasazi to dwell in rock sheltered villages and ultimately, a famine spread because of the non favorable conditions. Amazingly, these structures had 20-1000 rooms in them showing that the Anasazi were an incredibly capable and intelligent civilization. In addition, the empire's counties were protected by walls to keep out any hostile attacks. However, with difficulty increasing to survive in these villages because of famine and enemies, this lead to a long and treacherous march to present day Mexico. Below is an image of what a settlement looked like.
Big image

Other Environmental Factors

There were more environmental issues besides drought that contributed to the fall of the Anasazi empire. To name a few, there was soil erosion and fertility issues, deforestation, over fishing and over hunting. Like previously stated, rain was an unpredictable and limited resource in the Anasazi region. Since there was a lack of rain, soil became dry, hard and infertile leaving farmers at a loss on what to do. Additionally, after moving to cliff villages, agriculture became the main economic activity and with these environmental conditions becoming increasingly worse, the only way to survive was migrate somewhere else where rain was more plentiful. Deforestation was also an issue. Without rain, the trees died of lack of water. This deforestation caused two more problems in that trees act as barriers to slow water when it rains so without trees, water would run rapid creating soil erosion. Trees also capture water vapor and evaporate it off their branches so without trees, there was even less rain. All these environmental effects together created a harsh, inhabitable living environment. On top of this, due to over population, there was much more hunting and fishing going on. This increase lead to a depletion of the food resources an overall bad situation for the Anasazi. Looking at all the factors that contributed to the downfall of Anasazi, the problems piggybacked off each other. No rain caused environmental problems which caused famine and ultimately led to the disappearance and migration of the Anasazi. The environment and it's resources played a huge role in the fall of the Anasazi empire.
Big image
This is what the landscape of the Anasazi region looked like.


Works Cited

"Anasazi Culture." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2014. Web. 28 Feb. 2014.

"The Ancient Pueblo." The Ancient Pueblo. American University, n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

"Collapse: Chaco Canyon." Collapse: Chaco Canyon. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

Diamond, Jared M. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005. Print.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. "Ancestral Pueblo Culture (North American Indian Culture)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.

Johnson, George. "Vanished: A Pueblo Mystery." The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 Apr. 2008. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.