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Cowboy Wash: Were the Anasazi Cannibals?

Could you imagine living somewhere as beautiful as an ancient Anasazi/Pueblo village? Good luck finding a Food Lion!

Could you imagine living somewhere as beautiful as an ancient Anasazi/Pueblo village? Good luck finding a Food Lion!

"Nya b’a’n tu’n tjax tk’on chi’l toj twiy, ku’n b’e’x ch’ajila tu’n tx’yan.
It’s not wise to put a basket on your head as you will be eaten by a dog.
[He who walks without looking will fall into trouble]"
- Mayan Proverb

There's been a lot of talk lately about the Mayans and how their creepy calendar is going to end on 12/21/12 which effectively means that the world is over. The future's so bright, right?

Whenever stuff like this gets stirred up, public interest in the subject gets renewed. I've seen a lot of talk online about the Mayans and their disappearance recently. Everybody has a theory and some of them are entertaining, to say the least.

One ancient civilization that we rarely talk about anymore, though, is the Anasazi, whose name may have meant Ancient Enemy or Ancient Ones. They pre-dated the Pueblo Indians in what is now known as the Western US, living primarily in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah.

Not a lot is known about these people, but we do know that they were a mighty and advanced civilization. They built roads and religion. They built homes into the sides of cliffs, a technology that would later be used by the Pueblo Indians.

Most of the evidence that historians have turned up suggest that the Anasazi had a thriving, well-populated and intelligent network of communities.

And then they went "poof," and didn't leave a goodbye note or anything.

Graveyards and pueblo ruins are pretty much all we have to go by to piece together the Anasazi story.

Graveyards and pueblo ruins are pretty much all we have to go by to piece together the Anasazi story.

Read More About The Ancient Ones

The Anasazi Disappearance From History

The Anasazi disappeared sometime between the 1200's and 1300's. Nobody really knows why. There are many theories, though, and the prevalent one is that a Great Drought may have affected the area badly enough that any Anasazi who didn't die of starvation packed up their prehistoric U-Hauls and headed for greener pastures.

The Anasazi could also have been at war which, according to many archaeological finds, was possibly long and very bloody. This, combined with a drought or other food shortages could have caused the Anasazi to migrate. There was also something called the "Little Ice Age" that occurred beginning in about the year 1350, which could have killed off even more of the Ancient Ones or prevented them from traveling for long distances.

Scientist-type folks have been digging around in the previous Anasazi stomping grounds for a long time, trying to get a handle on the Anasazi. Most of the evidence is piecemeal, and a lot of conjecture and a pretty hefty dose of imagination goes into some of the theories that are suggested about what really happened to the Anasazi.

They're also finding a few things that they didn't bank on. Namely evidence of this little thing called cannibalism.

What Do You Think?

Were The Anasazi Cannibals?

Cowboy Wash is a fairly big dig, as far as digs go. It's located in Southwestern Colorado in Montezuma County. It is actually inside the boundaries of the Ute Indian Reservation and the land is currently owned by a Ute holy man.

Archaeologists know that this is an area where some Anasazi lived, and they have found bodies which date back to the twelfth century. What confuses them about the Cowboy Wash area is that the site seems to have been abruptly abandoned. Instead of packing up that U-Haul, they just dropped everything and went. Nobody knows why.

One of the majorly interesting things about this dig, though, is the condition in which some of the bodies that have been found. Some appear to have been battered and dismembered with their flesh removed. Some of the bones also appear to have been boiled or burned. This is really gross, but petrified people poop has been found with traces of human flesh in it. (How they knew it was people poop, well, I don't care to know.)

Now scientists and historians are in a bitter debate over whether or not these Ancient Ones regularly included people flambé on their menus. Some argue that cannibalism was a disgusting and taboo but necessary means of survival for some people. There is no evidence that they killed people and ate them, the bones just suggest that the people were eaten. They could have previously expired and the starving survivors, ravaged by war, drought and famine, made use of the fresh meat.

Some suggest that this people-eating nastiness could have been ritual. A theory goes that, by eating the flesh of an enemy, one could gain his or her spirit, energy, secrets or powers. Nobody knows if the Anasazi believed in this because they left no written records.

Another thing to consider is that there is no way to tell if the Anasazi were even the ones who ate those poor, unfortunate souls. Some other tribe could have come in and killed off the people of Cowboy Wash and decided to partake in a little bit of prehistoric gourmet dining a la Ted Bundy.

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So, were the Anasazi one-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple people eaters? The truth is that nobody really knows. We may never know. All we have is a few dozen ancient bodies that appear to have been somebody's lunch. Even if they did do the deed, we likely will never know why.

Maybe that's a mystery best left unsolved.

Very Interesting Documentay About the Anasazi

© 2012 Georgie Lowery


Dale Anderson from The High Seas on November 10, 2012:

Love it. Voted up.

Li Galo from Mainly the USA but Sometimes Abroad on October 06, 2012:

A great hub to get people thinking and sharing. Liking the vibe and interesting history.

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on September 27, 2012:

As a 5'9" strawberry-blonde, I LOVED this, Georgie! Your humor in the descriptions and story telling were awesome! Voted up and sharing! :)

Linda Crist from Central Virginia on September 18, 2012:

I couldn't agree more Georgie. Sometimes I think part of problems in the world is that we think we have to know everything. My Mom taught me that a women needs to preserve a little mystery. I think she knew what she was talking about.

Georgie Lowery (author) from North Florida on September 18, 2012:


I wish I knew where they went, or maybe I don't? I commented to someone's Hub about Atlantis the other day that I almost hope we never figure these mysteries out, because it's more fun to imagine what may have happened.

Thank you for the compliment, the comment and the vote! :D

Linda Crist from Central Virginia on September 17, 2012:

Ahhhh...the mystery of the Anasazi and the Mayans. What a great hub Georgie. Where did they go? Swallowed up or wandered off into assimilation? Wouldn't we like to know? lol

I love this hub. It's not only informative but very, very creative. Voted up and awesome.

Georgie Lowery (author) from North Florida on August 29, 2012:


Check out the link she gave to the wiki page for the Si-Te-Cah. These folks were in Nevada, I believe.

qeyler on August 29, 2012:

What you're thinking about, Julie, are the Carib indians who were considered to be cannibals. They have red hair, (in fact, people who intermarry with them have red hair. They lived and still live on various Caribbean Islands.

Georgie Lowery (author) from North Florida on August 29, 2012:


I can't read about it until you write a Hub about it. Seriously, though? They must have been artificial redheads, cause you know we're all under 5'4".

Julie Fletcher on August 29, 2012:

There you go

Georgie Lowery (author) from North Florida on August 29, 2012:

Oh, please, Julie.

You know there is no such thing as a red haired giant! :P

ps. That's an awesome story. There goes you a Hub idea!

Julie Fletcher on August 29, 2012:

I have a theory concerning the cannabalism. There was another tribe known to many natives as cannibals. The tribe was tall and had red hair. (funny, huh)

One tribe, I forget which, went to war with these 'giants'. Legends were passed down about the last battle where the few remaining giants were trapped in a cave and huge fires set by the entrance. The cannibals suffocated. Remains that matches the story were found some years ago and are in a museum along with sandals that were very large.

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