Out of the Four Corners

Childs, Craig
October 2005
High Country News;10/3/2005, Vol. 37 Issue 18, p8
This article reports that Susan Ryan, a young archaeologist is searching for clues to what drove a mass exodus from southwestern Colorado more than 700 years ago. Susan Ryan says that the ancient village she had been carefully unearthing would soon disappear under the blade of a tractor, turned back into an unrecognizable hill in the greasewood desert of southwest Colorado. Ryan wasn't remorseful. She had been given four years to excavate the site and to map its labyrinth of rooms and ceremonial chambers. Then she had to turn around and bury the whole thing, making it appear as if her crew had never been there. Now in her early 30s, Ryan is one of the last of a dying breed, the true field archaeologists who spend their days digging, while other archaeologists are chained to desks indoors. Back in the early centuries, dryland farmers and nomadic hunters lived in this high-desert region. But 700 years ago, they mysteriously vanished. At least that's how the story is usually told. Their disappearance in the 13th century has been hailed as one of the great mysteries of archaeology. They left farming implements in the fields, and pottery and furnishings stacked in their rooms, as if they were plucked from the earth by an ill and sudden wind.


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