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(Why, you ask, was an astronomer studying tree rings?
He studied trees while trying to find a land-based record of the 11-year sunspot cycle.) s part of his study, Douglass defined the “great drought,” a 24-year period of severe drought recorded in tree rings from 1275 to 1299—a span that included some of the driest years in the 2,000 years represented in his tree-ring record.
y combining archaeological and tree-ring data with insights drawn from Native American oral traditions, linguistics, genetics, and other data, we now know where the people who lived at Mesa Verde went during the late 13th century: Many moved south and east to the Rio Grande Valley near present-day Santa Fe and Albuquerque in New Mexico.
Although they did so in part because of the great drought, it is also clear that existing social, political, and religious challenges created “push” factors that induced them to leave.
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After taking a short rest, sipping water from his ceramic jug and snacking on pinyon nuts and deer jerky, he used his trusty ax to remove the branches and bark along the length of the tree, thus creating a straight construction beam.
he next day, he enlisted a group of friends to carry the beam a short distance to the cliff dwelling he wanted to repair.
(Unlike his ancestors, who had lived in pithouses on the mesa tops, his people built their homes as large apartment buildings in beautiful, massive, natural rockshelters below the mesa tops—probably for defensive reasons.) The young man and his friends used the beam to shore up the roof of the room they used for ceremonies.
nd when we look at the tree-ring dates decade by decade, some intriguing patterns emerge.
There are 284 tree-ring dates from the 1270s, indicating that construction and repair activities were in full force at a dozen cliff dwellings within the region that now comprises the park.
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