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Massada of the Southwest

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Ancient Puebloans, formerly known as Anasazi people, inhabited the southwestern corner of the United States until around the year 1300 AD. Then, they disappeared. Little is known about this group of people since only a minute number of clues have been left for archaeologists to discover. One thousand years earlier, at the top of a monolithic feature known today as Massada, overlooking the Dead Sea in Israel, there lived a group of people who, in contrast, have left numerous clues into their past. Their tool to preserving history was writing. Both peoples, living one thousand years and miles apart, had similar climatic conditions to contend with. Therefore, they found similar construction techniques to build living quarters and storage rooms. Both peoples left their homes abruptly, one culture in a brutal stand to defend their land and the other from reasons erased by unrecorded history.

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At the height of their culture, between 1100 and 1300 AD, Ancient Puebloans may have numbered by the hundreds at some villages such as in what is today Mesa Verde National Park, Navajo National Monument, and Chaco Canyon National Historic Monument. Population increased and flourished, as farming techniques improved and the people changed to more sedentary lifestyles rather than nomadic. Thanks to their unique construction design and its similarities with cultures still in existence in the Southwest today (such as the Hopi reservation in northwest Arizona), historians were able to make conjectures about their lifestyle and the reasons for their abrupt disappearance from history. However, most issues remain a mystery to this day.

The people of Massada were lucky to have their history preserved by the historian Josephus Flavius, a witness to their brutal end. It is known, for instance, that Massada was the lavish second home of King Harod I. It is known that these people had bathhouses and exchanged coins for currency. Thanks to written history, it is also known how the people of Massada turned it into a stronghold against the invading Romans and remained there until the very last minute when they preferred to take their own lives than befall into slavery.

In contrast to Massada, little is known about the Ancient Puebloans who have lived in a different part of the world over 1000 years later. They, too, had irrigation systems, granaries, and pit houses. They, too, used sandstone bricks as their primary building blocks. But whether they had vacation homes and servants and how they valued forms of trade can only be answered by educated guesses. Likewise, the greatest unsolved mysteries about this culture are the questions: why did these people leave and where did they go? Aside for a few undecipherable petroglyphs their culture has mostly disappeared due to the lack of written accounts in the region at that time.

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