GALLUP — About 10 years ago, Alan Downer
learned something that put into question everthing he
had been told about Navajo past history and the mysterious world of the Anasazi.
At the time he
was doing what he
liked to do best, working on an archaeological site on the Navajo Reservation.
Like the other archaeologists working with him, Downer
expected the Navajo site to date to the 16th maybe 15th century.
The prevailing theory at the time was that was about the time Navajos migrated to the Southwest region that would become their homelands.
But when the lab tests came back, the site dated to the 1300s A.D.
"The head archaeologist eventually said it was the 16th century, but he had to explain away the site," said Downer, now the director of the Navajo Nation's Historic Preservation Office.
"That's when I thought something wasn't right about this.
I started talking to chanters (and other Navajos with traditional knowledge), and they said, 'Oh yeah, we were here when the Anasazi were here.'"
Hearing that from the chanters, Downer
and the Navajo Nation
took the information to National Park Service officials at Chaco Canyon.
believes the Navajos arrived here in the 11th century and lived among the Anasazi, whereas archaeologists say the tribe came in the 15h century long after the groups that made up the Anasazi went their separate ways and became individual Pueblo tribes.
"These dates may be too early for our standard model," Downer
said, "but there's too many (of these sites)...we can't ignore them anymore.
"I can't understand what would motivate these people (the Navajos) to consistently use wood that's 200 years old," Downer
"Nobody I know has given a social mechanism that's driving these people to use 200-year-old wood."
Contemporary Navajos cut fresh wood to construct traditional buildings.
The strongest evidence for the Navajos' connection to the Anasazi come from families' oral traditions, Downer
However, the Navajo Nation
asserted its connection with the Anasazi only to set the record straight, Downer
"In Navajo traditional theory of disease, one of the principle ways of getting illness is offending the dead or dealing inappropriately with the bodies," Downer