February 24, 2013
But what happened to Chaco? It lasted a couple of hundred years and then it was abandoned. There was no manmade environmental catastrophe at Chaco. There was, however, an environmental catastrophe. In fact it was a great drought lasting from 50 to 75 years, about 1130AD to 1180AD. So Chaco was abandoned. People who used to come to Chaco built Chaco-like structures.Norman Yoffee on Questioning Collapse. See also, also.
What failed at Chaco then? What collapsed? Well, what failed was their belief system. And Pueblo Indians who tell their story today, increasingly to archaeologists who, as a change from their own past, listen to Pueblo Indians talk about their own history...these Pueblo Indians relate how in their past people fell away from the gods, describing Chaco, and thus they abandoned Chaco. In other words, the ritual centralisation which is very foreign to Pueblo Indians today was regarded as an experiment that failed.
After Chaco, new settlements arose, some in imitation of Chaco, but around 1300BC a vast change in the belief system occurred in the south-west. So what failed at Chaco was not only their agricultural system which couldn't survive this big drought, but the belief system that the gods were supposed to make it rain, for example, also failed and a new religious system arose with new material symbols which we can archaeologically identify and securely date, and which have still meaning today to people who live in the south-west.