Richard Wetherill, a rancher from Colorado, was credited as the one who discovered the magnificent Cliff Palace in Mesa Verda. It would be followed by the discovery of Keet Seel and other such dwellings which sparked the world’s interest in the ancient people who abandoned these communities. It was also Wetherill who gave them the name Anasazi after the Navajo word anaasa’zi, which means “enemy ancestors.” Their descendants such as the modern Hopi, Acoma, Piro, Zia, and Zuni peoples prefer to use the term “Ancient Pueblo” because of the negative feelings the Navajo word “Anasazi” invokes and they use the name for their ancestors in their own languages. The Anasazi basketmaking age began towards the end of 200 BC according to the Bible Timeline Poster with With World History.
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The Ancestral Pueblo lived in the Four Corners region of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah for thousands of years before their abrupt disappearance from the area. The oldest cultural stages of the Ancestral Pueblo were divided into Basketmaker II and Basketmaker III periods which came from a large amount of intricate baskets woven from yucca plant fibers that were recovered from the archeological sites.
There were two proposed origins of the Ancient Pueblo: first was the in situ model which meant that they descended directly from the original occupants of the area while the second was that they migrated from the Mogollon Rim of Arizona as shown by the similarities between Basketmaker II and the San Pedro phase of the Cochise Tradition.
The Ancestral Pueblo were hunter-gatherers during the early part of the Basketmaker period, but maize and squash were cultivated soon afterward. Corn is a heat-tolerant crop which made it perfect for farming in an arid land, and it was widely cultivated during the Basketmaker period. They used dryland farming techniques such as the use of pumice stones to conserve water, as well as the construction of check dams, waffle gardens, and terracing, to effectively use what little water they had.
Flint projectile points were used to hunt game and the intricate baskets (of which they were famous for) were used to store food. They dug circular pithouses in the open fields or in the shelter of the cliffs with logs and rocks stacked on top of another for the foundation. They placed firepits at the center of the pithouses with an opening on the roof which they used for cooking and for warmth.
Some of the artifacts recovered from the Ancient Pueblo sites during this period were shell jewelry, sandals, robes and blankets made from fur and feathers, woven bags from yucca fibers, manos and metates (hand tools used for grinding corn), and stone weapons. The use of ceramics and house improvement would not come until the Basketmaker III period.
Picture By Lorax – Own work, initially uploaded at en:Image:Mesaverde_cliffpalace_20030914.752.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=121435
Cremin, Aedeen. The World Encyclopedia of Archaeology. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2007
Matson, R. G. The Origins of Southwestern Agriculture. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1991
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