Anasazi back in the news
A federal land management plan drew fire for exposing Anasazi ruins in southeastern Utah to hikers, cyclists and off-roaders by changing their Bureau of Land Management designation from “areas of critical environmental concern” to “special recreation-management areas.” Protests can be lodged with the BLM.
And Ebay has posted a sale of a painting purportedly of an Anasazi woman by painter Thomas Baker. The accompanying text emphasizes a cannibalism theory about the Anasazi. The painting portrays a svelte and shapely woman and could be an airbrushed Playboy image if it weren’t for the two human skulls between her legs. Shayne del Cohen of Reno, an activist on Native American issues, calls it “a disturbing image.”
Apparently a favorite Anasazi method of cooking a human body was to chop it into small pieces which could fit into a pot of boiling water. As the lumps of meat containing bone tumbled around in the boiling water, the bone rubbed against the insides of the pot, and thereby acquired a characteristic type of abrasion that archaeologists call “pot polish.” Pot-polished human bone fragments are a common find at Anasazi dig sites.
Unfortunately for Baker, the evidence isn't as clearcut as he thinks:
Researchers Divided Over Whether Anasazi Were Cannibals
But from another standpoint, Anasazi cannibalism doesn't make sense. Eating people obviously isn't part of modern Pueblo culture, and local tribes are deeply offended by the suggestion that their Anasazi ancestors may have been cannibals. Many researchers argue that the marks attributed to flesh-eating could instead be created during slightly less gruesome activities, such as the public execution of suspected witches.
A debate rages over desert cannibalism
Other archaeologists point out that little is known about how the Anasazi normally treated their dead. Standard burial practices could have caused the skeletal damage ascribed to cannibalism. Ventura Perez, a doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, found faint marks around the jaws of some of Turner's skulls. Perez suspects the marks are light because the skulls had been stripped long after the flesh had begun to decompose–suggesting that meat removal was a burial practice.
Peabody's LeBlanc thinks a more likely explanation is that the Chaco Anasazi brutalized a subclass of their own people. Healed bone fractures suggest that many Anasazi were beaten repeatedly. Others were dumped on garbage heaps after they died. And still others may be Turner's cannibal victims, butchered like game animals but not necessarily served for dinner.