It was not so very long ago that many archaeologists regarded the Ancestral Puebloan people–or the Anasazi, as researchers once called them–as a rather peaceful, mystical group of astronomers, artists, priests and farmers.
They based this idea largely on their observations of modern Puebloan peoples: the Hopi, the Zuni and others who lived in traditional pueblos, such as Taos, and who often lived quiet lives of ritual and spirituality.
…archaeologists do what anybody else would do–they look for analogies in modern life. In the early 1970s, for example, when the Vietnam War raged, many researchers hypothesized that the collapse of the Classic Maya civilization was due to extreme warfare.
In the 1980s and 1990s, they pointed to environmental causes, such as soil erosion.
And today, many researchers ascribe the collapse to climate change, specifically a series of devastating droughts.
Probably all these factors played a part in the fall of the classic Maya civilization. But I find it interesting to think about the ways in which contemporary history contributes to prevailing archaeological hypotheses and interpretations.
I personally think it’s very possible that some Ancestral Puebloan people were victims of ethnic cleansing.
But would the archaeological community have taken this idea so seriously, had it not been for the intense media coverage of ethnic conflicts and cleansing in places like Bosnia, Rwanda and Sudan in recent years?
RELATED: from our “An expert is just some guy from out of town” files…
“It will be years –not in my time– before a woman will become Prime Minister.” –Margaret Thatcher, October 26th, 1969.
“Reagan doesn’t have that presidential look.”
–United Artists Executive, rejecting Reagan as lead in 1964 film The Best Man