The Anasazi tradition is steeped in mystery and legend, for these people came, flourished, and then vanished without a trace in 1300 A.D., leaving only their magnificent cliff dwellings, some pottery shards, and pieces of bone. Scientists fiercely debate the causes of their disappearance, but it is generally agreed to correlate with a great drought around the same time and the warlike Athabascan Indians settling in. A fun little side note is that the Anasazi are found to have converted to cannibalism late in their stay in the Four Corners region.

They settled the land around the Four Corners region en masse in about 600 A.D., the first of them moving there around 1 A.D. As they expanded, they eventually absorbed the Hohokam and Mogollon cultures, which resided south of them. Cultural sophistication kept up with their expanding population: they advanced quickly, with surprisingly little outside influence, through eight distinct stages, three “basketmaker” and five “pueblo.” They were a farming people, learning to store grain and corn during bumper crops to survive during droughts.

The final cause of their disappearance is, as mentioned, still under debate. One theory suggests that the high mineral content in their water eroded their teeth to the point they could no longer eat. The cannibalism, however, gives credence to the theory of drought. It is believed that the Hopi are their descendants. No matter the reason for the Anasazis' sudden extinction, they disappeared from the region completely, leaving only the giant monuments of their cities and some remains of their artwork, such as the famous Yellow Man, to stand testament that they had ever existed at all.