Craig Childs is an amazing author writing from his own experiences in the American Southwest. His bio says he is “a naturalist, adventurer . . . [who] lives in the West Elk Mountains of Colorado”. This book tells of a journey he begins in Chaco Canyon to follow the “roadways” of the Anasazi: first, northwest through Salmon, High Mesa Verde, Sleeping Ute, and Comb Ridge. Then he follows their route to Northeast Arizona: Mogollon Rim, the Pinaleno Mountains, and on into Northern Mexico. He makes connections and discovers leads to new ideas about where the Anasazi came from and how they disappeared. This is the beginning of his Prologue:
The inspiration for this book came from a discovery. It was an ancient relic I found near a river flowing through the butte-studded desert of the Colorado Plateau. I paddled alone in a canoe for days into a deepening red gorge, cliffs passing slowly against each other, tributary canyons opening and closing as I traveled downstream into the wilderness. On those days I frequently tied my canoe to shore and walked into the surrounding country. I skirted rock shelves and found my way to the tops of cliffs facing stark landforms in the distance, a desolate territory of wind-sculpted stone and brittle scrub.
This is a book I came across by a fluke. You know those really annoying suggestions that pop-up when you’re doing searches for a certain subject? Well I was searching for books about the Anasazi and up popped the suggestion: House of Rain by Craig Childs. Now I never would have known that a book called House of Rain was about the Anasazi of the Four Corners area of the US southwest. So for once, the pop-up was appreciated. When the book came, I couldn’t believe how beautifully and sensitively written it was, what a wealth of information it contained, and how logically Childs pursued his goal and laid it out in his book.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know how excited I get when there are maps. At the beginning of each section, he shows a drawn, topographical map of the Four Corners area and then a larger inset funnelling down to it’s spot on the map. With each successive map, the previous locations are included along with a smaller version of the drawing so it builds until his mission is completed. It makes every-thing so easy to follow and very clear. I love it!!!
As he travels, Craig meets up with various scientists and historians. He talks about T.J. Ferguson, an ethno-historian who “works a delicate line as a liaison between modern tribes and the scientific realms of archaeology.”
“It’s an unbroken chain,” Ferguson explained, his soft, glacial-blue eyes peering into the desert as he spoke. “You can’t look at one without looking at the other. And if you’re following paths of migration, you’ll find them in linguistics and in oral traditions. They are still very much intact.”
So, you can see, Craig takes a holistic approach to his study of the Anasazi. The artifacts he discovers as he travels the paths of their civilization lead him to some interesting theories that are making people in many disciplines reconsider what they have believed about these ancient people and how they came to disappear.
I read this book in preparation for going as a volunteer to a 6th or 7th century Anasazi site (considered to be a transition period from hunter/gatherers to farmers) at Indian Camp Ranch, Crow Canyon, Colorado within view of Mesa Verde. I found what Childs has written a lot to take in and I re-read parts in order to grasp it better; not because it was difficult to understand but because I wanted to retain it better and fit it in with what I had previously read.
If you’ve ever been intrigued by the vacant cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde, the rock art images of Comb Ridge, the cave dwellings of Kayenta, or the vast complex of kivas and great houses of Chaco Canyon, you’ll want to follow Craig’s journey through this whole area as he pursues the migration routes of these mysterious people, ancestors of the Pueblo natives of today. This book is truly a gem. * * * * *
You can check out my adventures on the dig here.