Anasazi Collapse

Trevor De Ghenghi and Tiernan Brady


Weakened by issues such as deforestation, poor soil, and a lack of food and water, the political and social systems of the Anasazi failed to react correctly to these issues which ultimately led to the collapse of the Anasazi society.


Wherever the Anasazi lived, they would cut down trees for building material and agricultural space. Because of the ambitious building projects that the Anasazi had, this led to the rapid deforestation of the area that the Anasazi lived in. To cope with this problem, the Anasazi migrated to another area that still had trees. They did this for many years until they reached the last area which still had trees, Chaco Canyon. Once they had deforested Chaco Canyon, the Anasazi had to get their wood from mountains that were over 75 miles away from the main settlement of Chaco. This became increasingly hard to do because of the growing lack of food and water especially since those transporting the trees had no animals to assist them. Eventually, no more trees could be delivered to the main Anasazi settlements, which contributed to the collapse of the society.

Poor Soil

The Anasazi lived in southwest America, where the soil was not very good. However, it could still be used for agriculture. But, wherever the Anasazi lived, they exhausted the nutrients in the soil, making it unusable. They avoided this problem by migrating to different areas which still had reasonably good soil. But, due to their large population at the time, they took up a lot of land and exhausted the nutrients in the soil on that land very quickly. By the time they ruined the soil in Chaco Valley, they had no more land in their region with soil suitable for farming. Since they could no longer farm in their region, food became sparse, and the Anasazi quickly collapsed.

Lack of Food and Water

The Anasazi's lack of water contributed to their demise greatly. Their location made it hard for them to get water due to the fact that rain came rarely and their nearest water source was far away. To solve this issue, the Anasazi got their water through irrigation canals built out of stone which carried water to their settlements. However, water was still scant, Because of the Anasazi's huge population, it was extremely difficult to distribute water to everyone especially since there was such a little amount of water available. Although irrigation this was one of their main sources of water it was only used for drinking and bathing. The water they used to harvest their crops came from the rain. Rain in the Chaco Valley didn't always fall at the same time every year. To deal with this issue, the Anasazi planted crops all around their region to increase the odds that rain would fall on them. Although the Anasazi did this, they could not guarantee that rain would fall on the crops as droughts were frequent. Whenever there was a major drought, the Anasazi would move to a new site which previously had received more rainfall. But, this strategy could not save the Anasazi from a 50-year long drought which occurred when they were settled in the Chaco Valley. The lack of rain for that long rendered the irrigation systems useless and halted crop growth. This lack of food and water resulted in the deaths of many people. This weakened the Anasazi greatly and was the biggest reason why they collapsed.

Political and Social Issues

As the Anasazi neared their collapse, they became weakened by political and social issues. At this time, around 1110 AD, the Anasazi were living in Chaco Canyon. Evidence such as artifacts show that many goods such as pottery and tools were entering the area. However, there is no evidence showing any exports from Chaco Canyon. So, the center of the Anasazi civilization was getting plenty of imports but they were not exporting anything This shows that the Anasazi's central political system was weak as it could not return goods to the outlying Anasazi communities. Also, their political system was focused on building magnificent buildings in Chaco rather than worrying about other issues such as deforestation, poor soil, and lack of food. So, the Anasazi's political system was weak and irresponsible. The Anasazi civilization also had social issues. Thanks to tree-ring dating, archeologists know that a wall was constructed around Pueblo Benito, a large, six-story plaza, years after Pueblo Benito had been completed. The wealthy people who lived in Pueblo Benito were surrounded by the middle and lower class people who lived nearby. The wall being built long after Pueblo Benito had been constructed reveals that the wealthy and the middle/poor got along for awhile, but the two groups developed a contentious relationship at one point. So, the Anasazi's social system also had issues. How a society reacts politically and socially to problems that the society faces determines the fate of the society. Because the Anasazi's political and social systems were in turmoil, they could not react properly to the problems at hand, ultimately leading to the collapse of the Anasazi.
Collapse (Part 1)


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