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The Mystery of the Anasazi
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By: Linda Weaver Clarke Email Article
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The mystery of the Anasazi Indians boggles the minds of many archaeologists. Who were they? What were their beliefs? How did they live? Indian art painted or engraved in rock gives us an idea who the Anasazi were, their beliefs and lifestyle. Carved into the desert varnish, the Indians left behind their heritage, their legacy.

Many people wonder why the Anasazi Indians disappeared, leaving behind their belongings and valuables. Where did they go and why? No one has the answer. There is much speculation about what might have happened to them. In "Anasazi Diaspora," from Navajo Visions and Voices Across the Mesa, Shonto Begay said that because the "Ancient Ones" were not obeying the rules of the clan, such as showing reverence and respect to God and attending religious ceremonies, the people "lost favor" in God’s eyes and were "swept away."

Some archaeologists believe that discord, tribal violence, and abuse among tribes caused abandonment of the villages. Wickedness, conflict, and warring among tribes forced some clans to leave the area and move to a new place, simply to get away from the contention. In one tribe located in southern Mexico, there were cases of homicide, "nearly all of which involved clan feuds or quarrels over women." (The Last Lords of Palenque: The Lacandon Mayas of the Mexican Rain Forest by Victor Perera and Robert D. Bruce)

Ancient dwellings, petroglyphs, and pottery found in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico are fantastic and part of Anasazi history. When an ancient ruin is discovered, it doesn’t take long for thieves to find out about it. Archaeological thievery is becoming more and more of a problem every year. At the Gettysburg National Military Park a few years ago, a man was searched and they found a metal detector hidden in his pants. He was scouring the park with it protruding from his pant leg. He was looking for Civil War relics. Utah’s vandalism is the worst in the country. Theft at the Four Corners area of Utah is still a big problem. The damage to these sites is estimated at almost $42,000 in two year’s time.

In 1906, the U.S. Congress passed the Antiquities Act because the collecting of artifacts was getting out of control. It protects archaeological sites, allows research, and imposes fines and sometimes imprisonment for the vandalism of historic sites. It was created in order to protect the archaeological sites in the Four Corners region between Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.

Unfortunately there is no law to prevent digging on private property. In fact, archaeological theft has gone corporate. They even pay rent on private property in order to dig without being caught. Sometimes entire pueblos have been removed. An ancient funeral pit can be sold for as high as sixty thousand dollars on the black market, not to mention pottery, baskets, and pendants found by looters.

I read an article in the Las Vegas Newspaper about a couple men who were loading some artifacts in the trunk of their car. A ranger saw what they were doing and questioned them, not realizing he had accidentally stumbled upon the largest operation around. The article said they recovered more than eleven thousand one hundred relics.

Did you know that people are actually selling shards and arrowheads on websites? The Anasazi culture is being sold to the highest bidder. Is there anything that can be done to protect America’s past?

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the government the right to protect and preserve all archaeological sites. It allows for scientific research but will impose fines and imprisonment for vandalism on historical sites.

Written by Linda Weaver Clarke, author of "Anasazi Intrigue: The Adventures of John and Julia Evans." To learn more, visit

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