The Great Abandonment

Cleveland, Ohio

“Explaining the ‘Great Abandonment’ has proven to be a challenge…The evidence for warfare, the widespread abandonments, and the subsequent settling of vacated regions by these nomadic peoples were considered to be compelling evidence. The arguments, however, have not held up to scrutiny.”

Cleveland, Ohio

“The trash deposits in the midden show that the initial abandonment was gradual, with perhaps a family or two leaving every once in a while, but the final exodus was much more rapid – so rapid that they actually left behind many intact vessels and perfectly good stone tools.”

Minneapolis, Minnesota

“The fact that people did leave northern towns is testament to how uncomfortable life had become.  As each family or kin group migrated south, tensions in the towns they left may have been alleviated for a while, but the town lost some of its labor force and defensive capacity with each person that fled.  It is perhaps for this reason that the abandonment started as a trickle but ended as a flood.”

Detroit, Michigan

“One possible explanation is that the aggregated towns simply lacked social cohesion and effective decision-making mechanisms…These were therefore towns only in the sense that many people lived closely together and occasionally acted in concert to face a common threat, particularly for defense against a definable mutual enemy.  But their internal ties were tenuous, and it may be that they were not sustainable when the problems were more nebulous and when the solutions required new social and political mechanisms.”

Quotes taken from John Kantner’s Ancient Puebloan Southwest.