What it’s about
What happened to the Anasazi? From the 11th to the 13th century, a sophisticated, complex civilization rose in the Southwest. Then it disappeared, leaving unanswered questions that some call archaeology’s greatest mystery. In House of Rain, writer and adventurer Craig Childs follows ancient roads, artifacts, and architecture as the Anasazi move from Chaco Canyon to Mesa Verde, Comb Ridge and Canyonlands, northeastern Arizona, the Mogollon Rim, northern Mexico and the Sierra Madre. Along the way, he delves into the research while hiking with archaeologists and scientists, Native Americans and park rangers.
What I liked
Childs is a scholar in desert khaki, equally at home scrambling up canyon walls to half-hidden cliff dwellings and inspecting potsherds in the basement of Harvard’s Peabody Museum. He navigates across time and place in a dusty pickup truck stuffed with books, folders, maps, and notes, the tools of an adventurer who wants to engage the past with both knowledge and open-mindedness. A historical detective with a rare ability to intuit ancient experiences, his writing sweeps the reader along the routes he travels into the mists of the past.
“As I understand more of the Anasazi, it is hard to say that they ever truly vanished. The farther I track them, the more it seems they are right in front of me, until I can nearly feel the body heat left in their footsteps.”
“I crouched watching a drape of ultramarine and pink rise from the eastern horizon.”
“The cosmology of this desert is constantly revealed in different forms. I looked up and saw rock art unfurling down a sunbaked cliff, and bits of fallen cliff dwellings hanging from shallow alcoves.”
“The Anasazi simply vanished one day. Farming implements were left in the fields, ceramic vessels remained neatly stored in their quarters; ladles rested in bowls as if people had been swept from the land by a sudden and ill wind.”