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House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest Paperback – July 3, 2008
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'And adventure story, a history, and a cultural analysis all wrapped in exceptional writing.' - Pete Warzel, Rocky Mountain News 'Craig Childs succees in translating a good hunk of Southwestern archaeology while providing us with the kind of inductive visceral experience he does better than any other naturalist.' - Katharine Niles, Denver Post 'Childs excites the imagination and creates a haunting portrait of a people and a way of life that will last long after the reading is finished.' - Clay Reynolds, Dallas Morning News
About the Author
Craig Childs -- naturalist, adventurer, desert ecologist, and frequent contributor to National Public Radio's Morning Edition -- lives in Crawford, Colorado. His previous books include The Way Out, The Secret Knowledge of Water and Soul of Nowhere.
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Many of the author's adventures in the back country were used in the book to introduce a new facet into the study of the Anasazi, and these passages in particular were poetically written. Child's descriptions of the harsh Southwestern landscapes provided more context into the lives and mindsets of his subjects, which I especially enjoyed.
One complaint I had, and it is a minor one, is that Child's repeatedly referenced various types of Anasazi pottery, using it as a way to track the movements of the ancient populations. I had difficulty telling all this similarly idea river pottery apart. A mini-fieldguide might have been helpful.
I recommend this book to those interested in the history of the Anasazi, aspiring archaeologists, and those enthralled by the cliff dwellings like Chaco and Mesa Verde.
The discoveries are only part of what is going on here, of course history and mystery make an appearance, along with a personal peek into the lives of the archaeologists themselves, and the workings of their society as well as that of the Ancient Pueblo Dwellers. All is not romantic and utopia here as he also broaches the subject of possible cannibalism. All in all this book is a rollicking ride through what has been, what is going on now, and what the future may hold, all treated with sincere passion, and reverence.( a discovery he left untouched out of respect ) To reiterate WOW, AMAZING, if you have any interest in the Southwest or Native history this is a MUST-READ !!!
The book is written as a narrative about the authors journeys and discoveries chasing the roots and history of the Native American people who thrived and built a great civilization across the Midwest but seemed to disappear in the 13th century. I found the history of the people fascinating and was amazed at how far their empire stretched, was intrigued by the forensic methods archeologists were using to uncover their history, by how much was still hidden, and also by the telling signs of what happened in the end years as their civilization collapsed and fell to ruin.
Initially, like some other reviewers, I also was annoyed by the lack of maps, but then began wondering whether Childs was intentionally avoiding involving the reader in the minutiae of the story and so distracting him or her from the real point: that there were large and complicated civilizations in the American southwest, trading extensively, and moving around in response to climate shifts, failures of crops or water supply, or pressures from other groups. From his other books I envisioned Childs as somewhat of a mystic (although he certainly doesn't give this impression in person), and it would be entirely consistent with this for him to be trying to capture the spirit of the region and convey an overall portrait of an entire area steeped in a culture that, although perhaps seemingly alien at first, becomes increasingly comprehensible as we begin to understand the conditions under which it arose and flourished. Then the absence of maps really doesn't seem so important.
I strongly recommend the book. It is one of the few I can truthfully say I was saddened to reach the end of.