Many years ago I was a Park Ranger at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. In my mind, Chaco Canyon is the most impressive Native American Ruins in the United States. I feel it is sad that every school kid in america does not know the story of Chaco. The Anasazi built a great trading network across the South West, with Chaco as its central trading hub. And then one day they left. There is debate of where they went, many would say (and I agree) that they became the Pueblo people of the SouthWest.
Another great debate about Chaco is WHY they left. If they became the Pueblo, then the equivalent of what they did would be if we, in modern America, decided to abandon our legal system, our education system, our monetary system, our transportation system, and went and lived in the woods like the uni-bomber. What would make a society throw away everything they had built?
There is no evidence of war on ascale that would take to decimate a society. There is no evidence of mass plague. There is some evidence of drought, but not on a scale that we would expect would cause mass starvation.
On the summer solstice, it appears the sun does not move for three days. For those skywatchers this would have been signficant. A common Native American belief is that on the summer solstice, the sun goes into his house and decides if his people are worthy of another year of life. If the sun decides his people do not deserve another day, he stays in his house, which would mean endless summer, which for those living in the SouthWest, would really suck.
The Dine’ people tell stories of how the Anasazi were punished by the gods because of their immoral lifestyle, just like we think orgies helped bring down the Romans. I suspect an “immoral lifestyle” in the SouthWest is the waste of precious resources.
My guess, and others as well, is that drought caused the abandonment of Chaco Canyon, but not because the loss of crops forced the people out, but the people interpreted the drought as they should leave, that the life they were living was not approved. Which in a way it wouldn’t have been, as more and more people lived in the desert city, then the resources would have been maxed out. I don’t think we today are capable of doing what the Anasazi did. Al Gore might win an Oscar for An Inconvient Truth, but little else changes.
So, if I am right, which is a big if, then Anasazi, as a society, volunteered to create their own Apocalypse. Which is either extremely noble or stupid, depending how one looks at it.