~ Anasazi Indian State Park, Utah ~

Anasazi is a general term for a group of people who inhabited the Four Corners area from about A.D. 1 to A.D. 1300. A mixture of hunting, gathering wild foods and farming were essential to their survival throughout this period of occupation. When the Anasazi arrived here, they were probably seeking land that could successfully support their farming lifestyle. These early people found mountain streams here that are critical to all life. These water sources created terraces of nutrient-rich soil perfect for crops. They also supported an abundance of edible wild plants and animals. Why they came is fairly clear. Why they left is not.

This area has been home to many people, including the Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) and Freemont Cultures, who coexisted in this region. The village on this site was built around 1160 A.D. It was occupied for about 75 years by a large group of people, who built complex pueblos. Since 1927, excavations at the site have uncovered two large pueblo room blocks and many pithouse structures. Over 100 structures have been uncovered.

The people who first settled here left clues to understanding their culture and everyday lives. These clues are discovered and interpreted by comtemporary Native Americans and archaeologists alike, providing us with a constantly unfolding view of this area's human past.

From approximately 1 to 1300 A.D., the people that archaeologists call "Anasazi" lived in parts of present-day Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona, the Four Corners area of the United States, creating impressive architecture, ceramics and textiles. These people successfully farmed in this dry climate region. They also relied on resources found in the desert, streams and forests for survival. At the same time, many other people around the world also lived and prospered using only what their environments offered them.

A group of Ancestral Puebloans arrived in the region during the first quarter of the twelfth century A.D., nearly 900 years ago. Their pottery styles as described by archaeologists and their histories as recorded in Native American traditions suggest they moved to this area from what is now northeastern Arizona. This ancient site may represent one of the northernmost settlements of the Anasazi people.

The Anasazi made unique varieties of pottery. The presence of distinctive artifacts such as turquoise and shells indicate an extensive trade network with neighboring groups. This trade network extended to the groups of the Pacific Coast. All of the examples of pottery found at the Coombs Site were in the museum behind glass and the photos I took did not come out well. I also apologize for the small number of photos. This site is rather small and there were not many photo subjects.

Information Source: Various signs in the park

Between A.D. 700 and 1000, Ancestral Puebloans throughout the Southwest began to construct above ground structures. Local materials, such as sandstone and basalt rock, were used to build adobe or stone masonry walls. This replica of a puebloan room block (below) was built with natural materials and depicts three residential rooms (right) and three food storage rooms (left).
Two types of construction were used by the Anasazi, Kayenta and Jacal (Ha Call). Kayenta used sandstone slabs cemented with mud mortar. Small chinking stones were often wedged between the larger stones. Jacal utilized juniper and pinyon pine posts in an upright position with sticks and small stones filling the spaces between them. This framework is held together with a mud mortar that covered the entire wall. Like the present day stucco. The Kayenta type of construction was used in building the replica.

Visitor Center

An inside view of the replica
Below are two more photos of the interior

Walking behind the replica, I saw a fire pit and decided to check it out. In the process, I found this geocache point. If I had known of the Utah Parks and Recreation game, I may have won something.

These photos show what was once a multi-room pueblo, or group of houses. This began as three separate structures that were later joined as more rooms were added, resulting in a U-shaped pueblo. Half the rooms were used for living quarters for an extended family or clan, while the remaining structures were likely used for storage. The charred ends of the remaining posts are evidence that these buildings were burned.
The area enclosed by the three adjoining structures provided a courtyard or plaza where daily activities such as grinding maize, scraping hides, drying meat, making pottery, weaving and childrens games may have taken place.

The Pithouse

Construction of a pithouse began by digging a pit, over which a roof of poles, brush and mud was added. Unlike other pre-historic villages, both pithouses and pueblo rooms at the Coombs Site were lived in during the same time period. Pithouses are better insulated from heat and cold than surface structures. This may explain the presence of pithouses at such a late period in prehistory, when most Ancestral Pebloans were occupying surface pueblo structures. At an elevation of 6,700 feet, it would have been warmer and required less energy (fire) to heat than were surface structures. Likewise, it would have been cooler in summer.

I don't know the story of the rocked in areas and items in the above photos. I thought the sign photos I took would tell me, but they didn't. The items in the left photo appear to be grinding stones.

What did they eat?

This area is rich in natural resources, which supported the pre-historic cultures that lived here. Many plants, including elderberry, pinyon pine, prickly pear cactus, ricegrass, sunflower and various grasses were gathered and used for food, medicine and building materials.
One of the most important foods of the Anasazi was maize (corn). This was supplemented by the cultivation of beans, squash and gourds. Miaze was first domesticated in Mexico from a wild grass, called teosinte, as early as 3000-5000 B.C. Maize played a central role in the lives of the Anasazi. It was the main ingredient in many meals. Growing corn in this environment required an in-depth knowlwdge of water cycles, frost dates and seasonal rainfall patterns. Because corn was so important, it probably figured significantly in their spiritual lives, much as it does today for modern Puebloan Peoples of the Southwest. The people also hunted wild game, such as cottontail, jackrabbit and mule deer.
The small garden shows some typical foods grown here.

Sharpening stone

Archaeologists think the Anasazi left the area around 1175 A.D., 50 to 75 years after their arrival. Most of the homes and storage structures were burned at that time, probably intentionally. Charred remains of the homes are visible in several of the photos here. Why the buildings were burned is an open question.
Life in large, close-knit communities meant getting along and making decisions acceptable to the group. Perhaps conflicts arose. Perhaps there was competition for resources from ancestors of the tribes we know as Utes, Paiutes, Navajo, and Apache, who had moved into the area around that time. Perhaps a combination of reasons coupled with a change in climate from semi-arid to arid.
Many American Indians believe these ancient people migrated back to the south and became members of the tribes living in the southwestern United States. It is possible that descendants of these people can be found within all of the tribes of the Southwestern region. No human remains were found at the Coombs Site.
Although isolated by rugged country, the Anasazi people maintianed contact with other groups living around them, including other groups of their own culture who lived to the south and east. The Fremont people living to the north and west were often trading partners. Pottery and clay figurines from the Fremont appeared in their neighbor's homes here.
The atlatl above was carbon dated to 2000 years ago.
Above is a panoramic view of a part of the White Cliffs of the Grand Staircase-Esclante

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