Sky Scraper Builders
Well, small ones anyway, some as high as five stories.
We will begin to use Hisatsinom as the preferred term by the Hopi, but continue to show the relationship with the Dineh term Anasazi.
[Pueblo del Arroyo]

The picture here is of the southeast wall of the Pueblo del Arroyo at the Chaco Culture Historical Site. Notice the woman at the right edge of the picture. She is about 5' 3".


Anthropologists say the Hisatsinom (ee-SAH-tse-nom) came to the Four Corners area around the year Zero, and vanished by 1250 AD. Nobody knows what happened to them; no other traces found, destination unknown. Many belongings were left in place, adding to the mystery. Even religious articles were abandoned at the Chaco Culture Historical Site, and more jewelry has been found there than at any other Southwestern site.

There is controversy about the name. Though Anasazi is has been in use for quite a while, it is the Navajo for "ancient enemies," and is considered to be derogatory.

Archaeologists have been using "Ancestral Puebloans." However modern researchers prefer either the Hopi term "Hisatsinom" - the "ancient people" or the Tewa language "Se'da" - the "ancient ones."

Since the Navajo did not arrive in this area until about 1350 AD, their word "Anasazi" shows a previous relationship between the two peoples, and is a clue that should not be discarded.

For a source of research, Thomas Mills book The Truth has some unusual ideas. You will also enjoy the article The Ant People in Clamor Seven.

In the year 1 AD, the Basketmaker II group was using dry farming which relied on melted snow and only occasional rain.

During the Basketmaker III phase, small numbers came into the Dolores area in about 500 AD, with most of the population between 600 AD and 900 AD, due to optimum farming conditions, and a clever water-control system.

Around 900 AD came killing frosts and droughts and many began leaving the Dolores area, but some continued at Escalante during the 1100s. It was during this same era that Chaco was in its glory.

While the Northern San Juan was declining there was growth around what is now Winslow, AZ.

Between 1000 AD and 1300 AD the Montezuma County of Colorado population was 25,000 to 50,000. These people relied on water reservoirs and small dams.

In these modern times that area supports 18,000 to 20,000 people.

After 1300 AD the Rio Grande pueblos, and the pueblos of Acoma, Laguna, and Zuni grew.

The four main branches of Hisatsinom culture were Northern San Juan, Chaco, Kayenta, and Virgin.


The main agricultural staples were corn, squash, and beans. Experiments have shown that farmers at Dolores may have produced 40 bushels of corn per acre, compared with "modern" dry farming that only yields 14 bushels per acre. One acre of corn was needed each year to feed one person, and storage was important.

Gardens attracted rabbits, birds, and mice, which were the main protein sources. They also gathered pinon nuts, yucca fruit, and berries. Large game was deer, elk, antelope, and bighorn sheep.

Food preparation was labor intensive: Corn was dried on the cob and was ground using manos, or pestles, and metates, the grinding stones shown below. There were three different grades of coarseness of the metates, beginning with the rough corn and finishing with the fine cornmeal.

Metates at Chaco Canyon
[Pueblo del Arroyo - metates] [Pueblo del Arroyo - metates]

Squash was dried in strips, and seeds had to be cracked, winnowed and parched.

Fires were going constantly, with jars of corn nearby to parch and heated rocks to drop into the cooking jars of beans.

Besides using the meat and hides of animals, the bones were cracked for marrow.


Most information on the clothing of the Hisatsinom is from comparing archeological findings with knowledge of Pueblo dwellers.

String was an early invention and weaving was developed independently in the New World by the Hisatsinom.

The Hisatsinom raised turkeys which were used mostly as feathered "sheep" for the weaving of blankets. Rabbit fur and yucca fibers were also woven to make robes and blankets that were both soft and strong.

Other materials used were human hair and cotton, which was a trade good from the south.

Comparison with Pueblo dwellers suggests that the Hisatsinom wore shirts, aprons, kilts, breechcloths, and belts of all of these materials. Remember that all of these articles are surmised by extrapolation. Some researchers believe that only moccasins and sandals, made from yucca, were worn. Possibly snowshoes.

Acessories such as necklaces, bracelets, hair combs and pins, and arm bands completed the outfit. Bone, wood, stones, - such as turquoise - and shell were all used. These may have had social or political signifigance; people are people.


The Hisatsinom utilized split willow, rabbitbrush, and skunkbrush to make coiled baskets that were tight enough to carry water. They used a spiral twilled method and waterproofed them with pitch. Heated stones were dropped into the baskets for cooking.

Pottery came into use about 550 AD and mainly replaced baskets. It is said that the Mogollon, an "earlier people" from the south, taught the Hisatsinom pottery, and that irrigation was taught to them by the Hohokam, a "prehistoric" culture that lived in parts of Arizona. But those statements are based on the fact that the researchers are evidently not talking with each other.

I hope that you will follow the connecting threads through the Four Corners Postcard and experience the joy of discovery.

At one time the civilization of The Ancient Ones covered 100,000 square miles in Chaco Canyon and the San Juan Basin.

Two major ruins of these expert stone masons are found at
Chaco Culture Historical Park, and Mesa Verde.

New Discoveries About The Anasazi - Hisatsinom

Two teenage researchers from the Four Corners, working independently and unknown to each other, have made significant contributions to a better understanding of the ancient Anasazi (Hisatsinom) civilization.

Dylan Schwindt of Cortez, CO, spent a year analyzing samples of wood from living Juniper trees growing in different types of sandstone in Sand Canyon near Cortez. He tested them for barium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, strontium, and zinc.

Schwindt devised a method for determining how far the Hisatsinom in the Crow Canyon walked to gather wood for construction of their roof beams. His research could be helpful in finding out if deforestation was a factor in the decline of the Hisatsinom civilization.

Ann Seiferle-Valencia of Farmington, NM has analyzed previous studies of the Hisatsinom in Chaco Canyon. During four years of research she studied corn cobs found at Aztec Ruins and Salmon Ruin, two major outliers of the Chaco center.

She has shown that corn was hybridized at these two sites, and that the resultant seed was used at Chaco Canyon for more efficient feeding of a growing population.

While previous estimates of the Chaco population have been from 2000 to 3000, she used a mathematical model based on current pueblo use of space to show that there may have been as many as 27,000 people in Chaco Canyon at the peak of the population.

Both of these young people are at this writing among the 40 finalists in the annual Westinghouse awards competition.

A Strange Possibility
There have also been new discoveries about the Hisatsinom at the famous site called Cowboy Wash.

Evidence relating to an event in about 1150 AD has become a subject of controversy. Bones of at least seven people were found scattered among pottery remains. Cuts on the bones and darkened flesh suggest that these people were butchered and cooked.

Theories among archaeologists are: Cannibalism took place, or these are the remains of suspected witches, or the bodies were left as part of a religious ceremony.

The two most involved scenarios are:

UPDATE: Mystery at Chaco Canyon has been solved. According to Christy G. Turner II, an anthropologist and regents professor at Arizona State University, invaders from Mexico practised cannabalism at Chaco.

During the period of 900-1200 AD, invaders from what is now central Mexico indulged in mass-murder "feeding sessions" of several days. At least 300 Hisatsinom were eaten, some of them children.

Distinctive teeth marks on the bones of the victims offer proof of the identity of the attackers, who commonly practiced implanting jewels such as jade and turquoise in their teeth.

Research on the Hisatsinom continues and we will have updates. There is now evidence that these people practiced mummifying some of their dead. See mummies.

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A Hopi Prophecy

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