By Harold Acton
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Additional info for An Indian Ass
Thomas Windes took a different approach. He estimated the number of families by counting the firepits in the great houses. He reasoned that a firepit was essential for cooking and heating, especially during the cold winters, so the number of firepits would reflect the number of families. Most of these hearths are found in groundstory rooms. Windes suggested that the upper rooms were left empty or were used for storage. He figured that the maximum population might have been only 2,000 people. Another clue to the size of long-ago populations is the number of burials in a region.
The land could no longer support so many people. The culture of the Chacoan people is defined by the great houses that they built in the canyon. When they moved out of the area they could not take their houses with them nor their complex irrigation systems and roads. Because they left in small groups over a period of time, they did not rebuild the huge pueblos. There was no need to do so. They were moving on to a new 39 / mysterious superhiglrways life. What they did take with them was their wisdom, their skills, their legends, and their ceremonies.
The dry years forced people to go outside the canyon. Then the rain returned, and with it came a flurry of building early in the 12th century. But the wet weather lasted for only a generation or so. The year 1130 was dry, and this time drought persisted for 5 0 years. In a way, its very success led to the civilization's collapse. The land could no longer support so many people. The culture of the Chacoan people is defined by the great houses that they built in the canyon. When they moved out of the area they could not take their houses with them nor their complex irrigation systems and roads.