The Anasazi

massacre. The human remains discovered there show unmistakable signs of cannibalism and scalping. It is thus clear that isolation in inaccessible villages was due to the need for defense. And yet this question of abandonment is far from being fully explained, although there is evidence of repeated droughts, invasions, and social and demographic tension (Nelson and Scachner 2002). It is also possible, as we shall see, that the Anasazi social customs, religion, and way of thinking played a role in this large-scale desertion, and to further explore these issues it is essential to trace their astronomical ideas, as the study of celestial cycles was undoubtedly one of the basic constituent of their very existence.

The place where this is most evident is Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. The Anasazi site there is made up of various two-story buildings, called pueblos, which are often enormous. Each pueblo contained dozens, even hundreds, of rooms as well as numerous spaces known as kivas. Kivas are circular rooms or buildings dug into the ground and elaborately fitted out inside; some, such as Casa Rinconada, which we shall discuss, are enormous. Access to the kivas was normally from above, and inside were to be found alcoves on the walls and an opening in the floor, set on the north-south axis. A fireplace with ventilating shaft completed the fittings. Archaeologists attribute a symbolic interpretation to the kivas, based on analogous structures (albeit rectangular) still in use today among the Pueblo Indians. It is difficult to

Figure 7.1: One of the Anasazi great Kivas: Chetro Ketl

obtain information from the Pueblo about the ceremonies held in these structures, but it would seem likely that they are closely tied to a cosmological myth, according to which the first creatures lived in the depths of the earth and then emerged by passing from one subterranean realm to another until coming out into the open. The kiva with the recess on the floor must therefore be a representation of the final stage, the "incubator" of men prior to their exit into the world.

The construction of the pueblo of Chaco necessitated the moving of great quantities of stones and timber, over dozens or perhaps hundreds of kilometers. The largest building in the complex is Pueblo Bonito, which contains about 600 rooms and 36 kivas. It is semicircular in shape, with a straight 150-meter-long front. Inside, a wall runs perpendicular to the diameter and an enormous 17-meter kiva is set tangentially to the wall. The building design of this and other pueblos shows clear signs of meticulous planning, and the arrangement of the buildings in relation to one another makes it clear that the complex was conceived in a uniform manner—a hypothesis that is also confirmed by dendrochronology dating (and by the fact that the entire layout is astronomically "anchored" as we shall see shortly).

The position of Chaco Canyon does not appear to have been blessed by any particular environmental benefits, although the natural environment was certainly less desolate than it is today. In any case archaeological investigation has shown that the resident population was numerically disproportionate in relation to the scale of the site and we also have archaeological documentation of deliberately broken pottery, which would suggest the performance of rituals (Lekson 1991, Sebastian 1991). It is thus reasonable to surmise that Chaco was not so much an urban settlement as a place of pilgrimage, visited by people at fixed occasions and dwelt in exclusively by an "elite." But what was this elite involved in?

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