Living and Leaving

A Social History of Regional Depopulation in Thirteenth-Century Mesa Verde

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The Mesa Verde migrations in the thirteenth century were an integral part of a transformative period that forever changed the course of Pueblo history. For more than seven hundred years, Pueblo people lived in the Northern San Juan region of the U.S. Southwest. Yet by the end of the 1200s, tens of thousands of Pueblo people had left the region. Understanding how it happened and where they went are enduring questions central to Southwestern archaeology.

Much of the focus on this topic has been directed at understanding the role of climate change, drought, violence, and population pressure. The role of social factors, particularly religious change and sociopolitical organization, are less well understood. Bringing together multiple lines of evidence, including settlement patterns, pottery exchange networks, and changes in ceremonial and civic architecture, this book takes a historical perspective that naturally forefronts the social factors underlying the depopulation of Mesa Verde.

Author Donna M. Glowacki shows how “living and leaving” were experienced across the region and what role differing stressors and enablers had in causing emigration. The author’s analysis explains how different histories and contingencies—which were shaped by deeply rooted eastern and western identities, a broad-reaching Aztec-Chaco ideology, and the McElmo Intensification—converged, prompting everyone to leave the region. This book will be of interest to southwestern specialists and anyone interested in societal collapse, transformation, and resilience.

“This study is built on the foundational premise that history matters: that social factors were critical elements—just as important as deteriorating climate, increasing population, and resource stress—in the decision by different groups to leave the region. Glowacki synthesizes the results of an impressive variety of analyses.”—Patrick D. Lyons, co-editor of Migrants and Mounds: Classic Period Archaeology of the Lower San Pedro Valley


"Glowacki presents arguments for how the 1200s were experienced using settlement patterns and architectural patterns as her primary data source. Glowacki’s historical landscapes are a combination of built environment, physiography, agricultural success, population density, and population change.”—Sarah Schlanger, editor of Traditions, Transitions, and Technologies: Themes in Southwestern Archaeology


“By adding a rich social history to her analysis, anthropologist Glowacki (Univ. of Notre Dame) has greatly enhanced understanding of the collapse of these populations and, in general, system collapses elsewhere, such as among the Maya.”—Choice
Living and Leaving
312 Pages 6 x 9 Published: 2015 Hardcover (9780816531332)
Ebook (9780816502486)

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