Conflict and Cliff-Hangers

Article excerpt

Conflict and cliff-hangers

The prehistoric cliff dwellings of the Anasazi Indians were discovered in the southwestern United States around a century ago and have intrigued anthropologists ever since. Some have suggested that drought and other environmental pressures forced the Anasazi up the canyon walls, closer to dwindling water sources, in the late 13th century. But recent discoveries by anthropologist Jonathan Hass of the School of American Research in Santa Fe, N.M., and his co-workers support another scenario: Some mesa and cliff sites were defensive outposts meant to protect one group of Anasazi and their scarce resources from the warfare that once convulsed the region.

Last summer, Haas and his research team uncovered in northeastern Arizona two large pueblos constructed by a group of Anasazi known as the Kayenta. One site was accessible only through a crack in the sandstone wall of a 900-foot butte and contained a 200-room pueblo. Another 30-room dwelling was located in a rock shelter at the top of a 140-foot cliff. In the past four years, says Haas, 15 Kayenta cliff sites have been found. …