Mesa Verde ancients represent cautionary Malthusian ecocide tale

The Mesa Verdean ancients, who occupied the Green Table for nearly a millennium, grew to a population of about five thousand creating spectacular architecture and art-of-fact, ultimately consumed every living thing atop Chapin and Wetherill Mesas. Matrilineal and matrilocal, their exodus took them east over the Continental Divide (possibly not for the first time considering their hunter-gatherer past) into the Rio Grande valley and settled Santa Fe where their descendants were all but wiped out by the invading Spanish forces.

Theirs is a cautionary tale of ecological destruction followed by extirpation: a trophic cascade where human is the apex predator and decimates a landscape. Rangers at Mesa Verde National Park drive home a narrative of preserving ecosystems to visitors.

Note wildfire scars: they represent centuries of lightning strikes that archaeologists now count on to uncover the over four thousand sites at the park. There are specimens of Rocky Mountain juniper that date to the time of the departure of the puebloans: about eight hundred years old. The bark was used in most of the ways northwest cultures used (and still use) it.

Puebloans in New Mexico accept their stations as members of the Fourth World. The standard of living among American Indians in New Mexico exceeds that of tribal nations trapped in South Dakota due in large part to former Democratic governors here but people of Spanish descent tend to bear the burdens of poverty in greater numbers. People running for public office are at a disadvantage if not fluent in Spanish and/or Dine' because language is such an integral part of heritage.

Chaco Wash is about seventy miles south of the green table and as with Acoma Pueblo, it's key to clan herstory.


Duffer said...

Good pix there Meester Kurtz. Mesa Verde has been spared the level of Moqui poaching that has taken place over in San Juan County Utah. I worked for a while at Natural Bridges NM (south unit of Canyonlands). Beautiful place, but the looting that took place before the Park Service could get the place surrounded was intense. BLM had one Ranger to police the largest county in the U.S. I believe Edward Abbey chronicled all this many moons ago.

Great tacos and cold beer at Mexican Hat if you ever make it the trip, with Monument Valley opening up just over the San Juan River there. One of my all-time favorite places.

Happy Trails !

larry kurtz said...

Everything was so green in contrast to the Galisteo basin, Duff: driving out of Rio Chama and crossing the Divide near the New Mexico/Colorado border on US84 is a brown to verdant whap up side o the head.

It was the trail of potshards and artifacts leading to Santa Fe that told the tale of how the people living along the Rio Grande got there.

Larry Kralj said...

Thanks for the pics, LK. I went there as a kid. Haven't been back since. Life intrudes.


larry kurtz said...

Keep bashing those Montana Pubbies, LK: always good to have you!