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A Great AridnessClimate Change and the Future of the American Southwest$
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William deBuys

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199778928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199778928.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 June 2021

Sand Canyon: Vanishing Acts

Sand Canyon: Vanishing Acts

3 Sand Canyon: Vanishing Acts
A Great Aridness

William deBuys

Oxford University Press

In the southwest the specter of climate change invites a long look into the deep past. For anyone who hunts for insights about the nature of the region and the trick of making peace with its aridity, the ubiquitous signs of vanished communities beckon irresistibly—in the ruins of Chaco Canyon, the empty cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde, and the mounded rubble of abandoned villages scattered near and far. The “lessons” they offer, however, are not always as clear as we would like them to be. Cautionary tales about the truths and errors of distant centuries can be easy to spin but surprisingly hard to reconcile to the complexity of the archaeological record, which is never static. As with any domain of science, the story told by the archaeology of the Southwest is always emerging, always gaining in heft and detail. When I went looking for someone who could help me read it, the trail I took led to the head of a rugged canyon, choked with piñon and juniper, in the far southwest of Colorado. “There’s a kiva, there’s a kiva, there’s a kiva,” says archaeologist Mark Varien, who is vice president of programs at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, outside Cortez. He points in succession to three circular depressions amid the rubble, signatures of the remains of subterranean rooms that once housed much of the life of the pueblo. Rough blocks of sandstone outline the space the kivas occupied, their roofs having long ago caved in. Wind has filled their cavities with the dust and litter of centuries. Now they bloom with cliff rose and sagebrush. We stand just behind the kivas on a mound of half-buried building stones, which are canted at every angle—the remains of masonry rooms. To either side lie the mounds of more room blocks, their rear walls forming the perimeter of the pueblo, and the pueblo itself wrapping around the cleft of a rocky draw. The draw leads south and widens into Sand Canyon, a dry tributary of McElmo Creek, which flows west out of Colorado and joins the San Juan River not far away in Utah.

Keywords:   Anasazi people, Block, Chaco period, Darfur, Ethiopia, Four Corners, Galisteo Basin, Hohokam people, Kokopelli, Sand Canyon

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