Contrary to popular belief, there was never a Native American tribe known as the Anasazi. This term is a descriptive label used to classify the residents who lived in the Four Corners region of northeast Arizona and northwest New Mexico, as well as adjacent areas of Colorado and Utah, between 1 and 1300 AD. The Anasazi are the ancestors of Modern Pueblo People.
In archaeological research, the Anasazi are often referred to as Ancestral Puebloans or Ancient Pueblo People. Some of the Modern Pueblo People dislike the term Anasazi as well. The label is based on a Navajo word that means “ancient stranger” or “ancient enemy.” This has led certain groups to argue that Anasazi is essentially an ethnic slur.
Anasazi culture still remains somewhat mysterious. Since the Anasazi lived so long ago, all evidence of their daily lives is indirect. In addition, there is often disagreement among archaeologists about various aspects of the Ancient Pueblo culture.
The Anasazi were farmers, but most also spent a fair amount of time hunting and gathering in order to protect their families from the danger of crop failure caused by drought or cold weather. They lived in pueblos made from clay that covered a lattice of sticks and was anchored to a row of foundation stones. Many of these pueblos were multi-family dwellings, since expanding an existing pueblo was an easier task than building a new home.
Archaeologists believe the Ancient Pueblo People may have spoken several different languages, including Tewa, Tiwa, Keresan, Zuni, and Hopi. They wore clothing that was woven on large upright frame looms and often made necklaces, bracelets, earrings, arm bands, and hair pins from bone, wood, coral, turquoise, or slate. Moccasins, sandals, and snowshoes were the preferred Anasazi footwear.
Anasazi religious activities were most often based upon a belief in the importance of nature and harmony with the world. Careful observation of the stars, moon, and sun was a vital part of Ancient Pueblo culture. There were many prayers and rituals designed to encourage successful hunting and farming. Key religious figures within Anasazi culture were prominent community members selected for their family lineage as opposed to ecstatic visions.
Traditionally, Pueblo societies were matrilineal and matrilocal. Clan affiliation was typically determined by the female bloodline, with children belonging to their mother’s clan. When a woman married, her new husband was expected to move into her family’s household. However, the Anasazi men did enjoy special positions of civil authority.