Friday, April 9, 2010

Ancient Peoples of the American Southwest - Stephen E Plog

The American Southwest is home to some of the most remarkable monuments of America's prehistoric past, such as Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. Visitors marvel at the impressive ruined pueblos and spectacular cliff dwellings but often have little idea of the cultures that produced these prehistoric wonders. Stephen Plog, who has spent decades working in the region, provides the most readable and up-to-date account of the predecessors of the modern Hopi and Pueblo Indian cultures in this well-received account. Ten thousand years ago, humans first colonized this seemingly inhospitable landscape with its scorching hot deserts and freezing upland areas. The initial hunter-gatherer bands gradually adapted to become sedentary village groups, and the high point of Southwestern civilization was reached with the emergence of cultures known to archaeologists as Anasazi, Hohokam, and Mogollon in the first millennium A.D. Chaco Canyon became the center of a thriving Anasazi cultural tradition. It was the hub of a trading network extending over hundreds of miles, whose arteries were a series of extraordinary roads that are still being discovered and mapped. To the south lay the settlement of Snaketown, focus of the Hohokam, where the inhabitants built courts for a ritual ball game--intriguing echoes of ancient Mexican practices. The Mogollon people of the Mimbres Valley created some of the world's finest ceramics, decorated with human figures and mythical creatures. Interweaving the latest archaeological evidence with early first-person accounts, Professor Plog explains the rise and mysterious fall of Southwestern cultures. As he concludes, despite the depredations and diseases introduced by the Europeans, the Southwest is still home to vibrant Native American communities that carry on many of the old traditions.

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