Canyon Gardens: The Ancient Pueblo Landscape of the American Southwest

Edited by V.B. Price and Baker H. Morrow
University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque
264 pages, cloth, $34.95
Review by Charles BennettCanyon Gardens

Although many aspects of the Ancestral Puebloans have been documented and studied throughout the years, their physical landscapes have remained largely unexplored until now. The 13 essays comprising this book discuss the relevance of intentional Ancestral Puebloan landscape modification for horticultural and agricultural purposes.

One of the contributors asserts in the first chapter that the Ancestral Puebloans should be perceived as inhabiting huge regions rather than specific sites, moving and changing their regional landscapes to meet their needs. Berry gardens and pocket terraces at Abó and Quarai are next discussed; then how to "read" the landscape of the past with "ecofacts," such as charred seeds, maize cob fragments, kernels, stems and other bio-debris.

Other chapters detail the agricultural practices of the ancestral Tewas and the transformation of Ancestral Puebloan agriculture into hacienda-like farms after colonization by the Spanish. The second half of the book – seven essays – details the influence of the Ancestral Puebloan landscape on our own times. Every essay was written by a scholar specialist, yet no one is bragging about academic accomplishments here: Each is a readable, fascinating look at the ancient landscape of the Ancestral Puebloans.

Southwest Bookshelf
New Mexico Magazine remote
July 2007