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Sunday, March 6, 2016


Post by Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

We love writing about the West, it seems to be in our blood. But what was the West before it was the myth we love? I'm talking about the world before the year 1,000. Of course as a teen I was fascinated with the Aztecs, Toltecs, and then the Olmecs. Then I had the gift of visiting the Cahokia mounds. Now of course we talk about the Anasazi, Chaco Canyon. So who were there peoples? How did their stories impact our lives and our own writing?

Cahokia peoples settled the Mississippi/Illinois river area around 700.
Anasazi people settled the Four Corners area around 200
Chaco Canyon in use by 850.
All three were in decline by around 1200-1300.

Both the Cahokia and Anasazi are the subject of much speculation. They both build amazing civilizations. Were they cannibals? Did they have human sacrifice? One of the hardest parts of archeology is putting yourself in the 'shoes' of the inhabitants of the area you are studying, much as we authors do when creating our characters. It is not easy to be historically correct, especially when you don't know all the facts about the time you are writing.

The following quote from the Cahokia Mounds website gives a hint of the influence the inhabitants had on their area: “One of the greatest cities of the world, Cahokia was larger than London was in AD 1250. The Mississippians who lived here were accomplished builders who erected a wide variety of structures from practical homes for everyday living to monumental public works that have maintained their grandeur for centuries” For additional information the following links will take you on that journey., , I really encourage you to read all, but if you only have time for one, the National Geographic article is a good overview.
Image result for images of cahokia mounds
The Anasazi are more widely recognized, mainly because of Mesa Verde and the history of the Pueblo people. Still what became of them? Why did they abandon the dwellings that they are remembered for? We may never know, but what a history these people have. The following quote from the Mesa Verde site shows how important the preservation of the history is: Preserving the “Works of Man”
Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from AD 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States. Additional information can be found here: , , I love the BLM site, it allows you to follow a question and answer format.
Lastly there is Chaco Canyon in the Southwest. This area also contains more from the Anasazi culture. Many think it may have been part of the 'highway' through which trade goods traveled. For more on this site: , ,

That these peoples influenced future generations is without question. Still, so much is not known, or is speculation. Mesa Verde, Cahokia Mounds and Chaco Canyon are still mysteries in many ways, but oh the stories they can inspire. Did the Anasazi and the Mississippians at Cahokia know and trade with each other? So many questions but so many stories to be told, so many myths and mysteries.

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at - and has now passed one thousand haiku and photos posted on this blog. Check out her other work or like her Amazon author page:


  1. It certainly makes you wonder what they were thinking and how they lived. It seems likely the Anasazi were influenced by those in tribes in Mexico but to what degree is filled with speculation. Wonderful backdrops we can use in our fiction!

    1. Kristy, the history of the Aztecs, Toltecs all go back to the Olmecs and that has always fascinated me. The Olmecs were in power from 1200 BCE to about 400 BCE in Mexico. Can you imagine having a spirit from one of any these peoples who came before in a story. Gives me chills just thinking about it. Doris

  2. What a fascinating history of the first people to inhabit the Southwest. It asks so many questions that have no answers, but still stirs our imaginations and makes us want to know more. Thanks for the post, Doris.

  3. You are welcome Agnes. I've been fascinated with these early people from a very young age. I would check books out of the library whenever I found one. You'd think I'd be an expert, but they keep finding more and more. "Sigh" . Doris

  4. Hi Doris! As an anthropology/history teacher and major, I always loved studying early people groups and their cultural traditions. Never got to go on a major "dig," but would have and maybe someday, still will!!! So much to still learn :-)

    1. Gail, it wasn't my major, sociology/criminology was, but I wanted and still want to go on a dig. Just the thought makes me happy. You are correct, still so much to learn. They've found so much more about the Cahokia Mounds since I visited there. Thanks for reminding me how much I love history. Doris

  5. Hi Doris! This is fascinating. I have had an interest in these ancient civilizations for a long time, (not enough to go deep into research, just more a curiosity I think) I'm interested in the Inca and Mayan people too. It boggles the mind to think that such 'great' peoples have disappeared, it leaves a heck of a lot of questions unanswered doesn't it? Thanks for a really interesting post.

    1. Jill, the Olmecs were the first civilization and predated the Aztec and possible contemporaries of the Mayan. When I was a teen, I was always on the lookout for information about these early people. So many questions, so much more to learn. Sigh! Thanks for sharing my passion. Doris