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Anasazi = Ancestral Puebloans?

The commmonly held belief is that the so-called Anasazi people were the ancestors of the Hopi and other Pueblo peoples. But one writer, Russell Bates, disputes this. You can see my debate with him unfold below:

"ANASAZI means 'ancient enemies' in Navajoan but it doesn't mean Pueblan people."

The debate continues (10/31/06)....
More on Russell Bates's screenplay "Anasazi":

>> The Anasazi had gold and copper, but also had iron that they worked from the Great Meteor that they held as an object of worship. <<

Do you mean in your fictional world or in the real world? Because I haven't seen any evidence of the "Anasazi" using metal in the real world:


Tools: The Anasazi were a stone-age people, without metal of any kind. They skillfully shaped stone, bone, and wood into a variety of tools for grinding, cutting, pounding, chopping, perforating, scraping, polishing and weaving.


The Chaco Anasazi were skilled masons. Working without metal tools or any formal mathematics, they put up vast communal buildings that still compel admiration.


Dr. Gregory Schaaf, a scholar in Indian history, wrote: "The architectural engineering and artistic skills of these prehistoric builders is enhanced by the realization that they worked without metal tools or precision instruments."

>> I wondered about that 'treasure' in the Anasazi grave, also. But it had to be there, else there was no reason for Gabe and Dicker to be hunting for it. <<

Aren't old pots valuable enough to motivate gravediggers? If not, the "treasure" could be a rumored stone tablet or metal-tipped cane. Any unique Anasazi artifact, even if it weren't gold or jewelry, would be worth millions.

>> Then, after 75 years, the ancestors of the Navajo and the Hopi and the Zuni begin to move into the area and he turns on them. <<

Unless every Pueblo tribe is right in claiming the Anasazi as their ancestors.

Even if we buy your unproven theory that the Anasazi weren't the ancestors of the Pueblo people, the Basketmakers were. The Basketmaker I, II, and III cultures evolved into (the Anasazi and) the Pueblo cultures according to accepted archaeological theory. So the ancestors of the Hopi and Zuni coexisted with the Anasazi even if they weren't the same people. These people migrated into the Southwest 2,000 years ago, not 800.


Because of the cultural continuity from the Basket Makers to the Pueblos, they are jointly referred to by archaeologists as the Anasazi culture.


Traditionally, the Pueblo people were labeled by the Spanish as pueblo (stone masonry town dwellers) in contrast to rancheria (brush/mud camp dwellers). As a cultural group they have survived with clearly unbroken continuity into the present from at least as long ago as two millenia.


Many aspects of Basketmaker culture persisted for hundreds of years and became part of the defining characteristics of the Anasazi and their modern descendants, the Puebloans of the American Southwest. The oral histories of the modern Pueblos preserve a rich heritage, and archaeological research has enabled some modern Puebloan groups to expand their knowledge even further into the distant past.


The habitation sites were occupied at various times during the Basketmaker III, Pueblo II and Pueblo III periods, approximately A.D. 550-1250, with a temporary abandonment during the Pueblo I period, approximately A.D. 750-900. Based on the general continuity in the material culture and the architecture of these sites, it appears that the community that lived in this area had long-standing ties to the region and returned to sites even after migrations away from the locale that lasted more than one hundred years.

See also:




The debate continues (12/11/06)....
>> The great Anasazi Meteor exists, and so do pieces of their relics that were made of meteoric iron. This is a confirmed part of the research. <<

This research apparently hasn't reached the mainstream, since the phrase "anasazi meteor" turns up exactly one hit in Google.

>> Just because they had metal does not mean they had metal tools. <<

Just because they had meteoric iron doesn't mean they had gold or silver.

>> And all other 'Pueblo' tribes do not claim the Anasazi. <<

They don't? Which ones don't? As far as I know, all 20 Pueblo Indian tribes claim the "Anasazi" as their ancestors.

>> My 'unproven theory?' Do Hopis have six fingers and six toes? <<

I don't know and neither do you. Especially since doctors often remove extra digits when babies are born.

Do any Anasazi remains except the six found with six fingers and toes have this polydactyl trait? If not, it's an aberration.

I addressed this claim in our exchange at Mandans = Welshmen?

>> The Anasazi were a great and vast culture, even communicating with the Aztec, so much so that they even began human sacrifice and blood rituals to try to help their own lack of rain for survival. <<

Is this a reference to the handful of cases archaeologists have found of possible cannibalism? Or to something else?

>> Just because their existence coincided with the Basketmaker era does not mean they were limited to the same technologies. <<

How do you explain the fact that the "Anasazi" had the same arts and technologies as the Basketmaker cultures that preceded them by a millennium or two?

>> The Anasazi built sky observatories that compare with those of the Maya. <<

That the "Anasazi" had observatories doesn't tell us who they were related to, of course.

Final answer?
Finally I asked a professional archaeologist if there was any doubt that the "Anasazi" were the ancestors of the Pueblo tribes. His response:

The Anasazi or ancient Puebloans were most certainly the ancestors of the Modern Pueblo people. The lines of descent, in general terms, are beyond debate in the field of American archaeology. Almost any Pueblo archaeology reference that discusses the linkage between past and present groups will cover this topic. You might look at the discussion in my book: The Puebloan Society of Chaco Canyon, 2004, published by Greenwood Press.

Now, the specific ancestries of individual Puebloan groups and pueblos (towns) are very complicated. We cannot say, with certainty, that the people from Chaco Canyon, for example, went on to become the builders of one or two or three specific pueblo towns on the Rio Grande or among the Western Pueblo. Chaco seems to have been a gathering point for multiple members of various Pueblo ethnic and biosocial groups.

Tracing the ancestry of various modern Pueblo towns is a current issue of interest for many Southwestern archaeologists. I think we'll see some breakthroughs in the not-to-distant future.

best, Paul Reed

Paul F. Reed
Chaco ScholaróPreservation Archaeologist
Center for Desert Archaeology
Salmon Ruins Museum
P.O. Box 125
Bloomfield, NM 87413
505-632-1707 (fax)

More evidence that Basketmaker = "Anasazi" = Pueblo:

What Happened to the Basketmaker People?

The transition from the Basketmaker to the Pueblo Anasazi is somewhat of a puzzle. Did the Basketmaker people gradually become the Pueblo Anasazi? Or, did they abandon the region or even become extinct?

Archaeologists during the early part of the 20th century speculated that the Basketmaker people were genetically and culturally distinct from the later Puebloan people. This theory was founded primarily on osteological evidenceóresearchers studying skeletal remains of Basketmaker and the Pueblo Anasazi found a lack of cranial deformation in the Basketmaker people and its definite presence in the Pueblo Anasazi. Proponents of this theory suggested a population replacement of the Basketmaker with a new race, possibly from the south.

Today, the most widely accepted theory holds that the Basketmaker evolved into the later Pueblo cultures. Many scholars now believe that the Basketmaker and the Pueblo Anasazi are, in essence, the same culture, and together constitute ancestral Puebloan people whose descendants live in the modern day Pueblos of the Southwest. Additional osteology research suggested that the cranial differences first held to be biological evidence of genetic differences between the groups was entirely the result of a cultural practice, placing babies on hard cradle boards that slowly deformed their heads as they grew.

The most compelling evidence for the theory of cultural continuity is the material culture itself, which suggests a continuation of peoples. Pottery making and subsistence strategies that began in the Basketmaker period persist and become more developed in the Pueblo periods. Basket and sandal-making continue as well, although techniques do evolve and there seems to be a lessened emphasis on the textile crafts in later Puebloan times.

Recent regional studies of human skeletal material from Native American populations throughout the Southwest and new advanced DNA research techniques have once again raised the possibility that there may be some genetic differences between the two groups. This, together with linguistic data, suggest that the history of Puebloan people may be much more complex than first thought, and that immigration and mixing of various prehistoric groups probably took place over the very long course of prehistory. It is entirely possible that both theories are correct: as we know from history and recent experience, populations can absorb new genetic material and still maintain cultural cohesiveness; and cultural assimilation can render underlying genetics inconsequential. It is part of the human phenomenon that primarily culture, rather than genetics, defines who we are as people.

Let's summarize the last posting. There's a possibility the Anasazi may not be related to today's Pueblo people genetically. It's a possibility only and it goes against the longstanding accepted wisdom. I've searched the Internet and I've yet to see any evidence of this possibility.

Whether the Anasazi and Pueblo people are related genetically or not, though, they're related culturally. When immigrants arrive here they become Americans, adopting the host culture, regardless of their ethnicity. Similarly, if the Anasazi were outsiders, they adopted the Basketmaker culture. The Pueblo people, in turn, adopted the Basketmaker/Anasazi culture. There's no distinction or discontinuity between them culturally.

More information on the "Anasazi"
Anasazi Cannibal Woman for sale
Educating Russ about the Anasazi
"Anasazi" move = religious revolt?

More debates on the "Anasazi"
"[T]he Anasazi were tall, whereas Pueblo people are not."
"Mesa Verde more properly is called the longest continually-occupied community in North America."
"Hopi claims to the contrary, there are no Anasazi around to protest the fate of their object."

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