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The interdisciplinary strategy has enabled the researchers to examine prehistoric societal changes at a level unattainable in most other regions. Unparalleled detail,” says Steve Lekson, an archaeologist at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The emerging picture is one of a society rocked by troubles until it eventually toppled.
Funded by the US National Science Foundation, the nearly US.5-million initiative is assessing how social and environmental factors influenced the populations of prehistoric Pueblo farmers from about 600 to 1300, says Tim Kohler, the VEP's principal investigator and an archaeologist at Washington State University in Pullman.
In one strand of research, the team drew on the rich history of archaeology in the region to compile a database of 18,000 prehistoric sites, which allowed them to measure the population and how it shifted over time suggested that people started leaving the Mesa Verde region at least 15 years before the drought hit.
“That is one of the iconic problems of southwestern — and world — prehistory,” says archaeologist Mark Varien, who is executive vice-president of the Crow Canyon Research Institute in Cortez, Colorado.All together, nearly 30,000 people disappeared from this area between the mid-1200s and 1285, making it one of the greatest vanishing acts documented in human history.What had been one of the most populous parts of North America became almost instantly a ghost land.It was a rejection, them saying, 'We can't live that way anymore.
There has to be a better way'.” It was chance that first carried Glowacki into the world of the ancestral Pueblo.
Gradually, a history of the village has taken shape, showing that people assembled the first set of rooms in the alcove around the year 1200, and added more right up until the last residents abandoned the site around 85 years later.