Anyone who has felt nighttime in the desert closing around a campfire and watched the star-filled sky open above knows how a desolate landscape can inspire some serious navel-gazing and philosophizing. But it takes a writer with Craig Childs's skill and knowledge of the desert and its ancient people to make it worth reading. In House of Rain (Little, Brown and Company, $25) Childs, a journalist and commentator on National Public Radio, travels through the ancestral Pueblo ruins of the American Southwest asking: Why were architectural marvels like the ruins at Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, and Hovenweep abandoned around A.D. 1300? The question is not easily answered, but Childs's attempt leads the reader through a comprehensive discussion of the latest thinking in Southwestern archaeology. Childs visits a variety of archaeological sites, some iconic, some unexplored, and each providing an entry point into discussions of everything from the changing trends in ceramic technology to the possibility of widespread warfare sweeping across the desert Southwest.
© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America