Those Who Came Before: Southwestern Archeology in the National Parks System is a companion dvd to the book of the same title by Robert H. and Florence C. Lister. It is a useful documentary for relatively recent arrivals who have sunk in long and deep enough to realize that ancient studies here can rival those elsewhere. It is also an excellent if brief summary of the desert dwellers from the 10th to the 15th century in sections of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado whose lives were not a whit less significant than their contemporaries in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
To learn about those who came before the Pueblos and Spaniards is to give some consideration to names. The Hohokam established communities along the Gila and Salt Rivers. The Anasazi inhabited cavernous cliffs to the north in Mesa Verde. The Mogollon settled in southwest New Mexico and northwest Mexico. The Salado resided close to Globe, Arizona, and the Sinaguans next to Flagstaff. In addition, there are, of course, the Chacoans of Chaco Canyon and others who left behind evidence of prehistoric trade — arrowheads, copper, turquoise, and shells — at what is now the Pecos National Monument.
These tribal ancestors were not ciphers. In terms of chronology, they connect earlier people who hunted mammoths before the ice age to agriculturists afterwards who farmed the upper Rio Grande Valley, along which Albuquerque is situated. In the areas described apartment buildings, kivas, and ball courts were constructed. Settlers wove baskets, made pottery, and harvested hundreds of indigenous plants that still grow, as edible as they are unknown to moderns. Mysteriously, heavy timber was carted from Colorado without the wheel and communications took place regularly over long distances without horses.
Many archeologists theorize that droughts and floods as well as hostilities wrecked the intriguing civilizations that both co-existed with and preceded the Hopi, Zuni, Pima, and Tohono O’odham. Whatever the reason, the scientists, engineers, artisans, gardeners, and spiritualists of the great southwest moved on. Historians have always warned against ignoring the past. This dvd can make a difference. The lost cultures of the indigenous population of the Americas are often enough given short shrift. To counter this neglect, the Western National Parks Association offers many informative dvds, books, and pamphlets.