Synopses & Reviews
The Hopi community of Awat’ovi existed peacefully on Arizona’s
Antelope Mesa for generations until one bleak morning in the fall of
1700 — raiders from nearby Hopi villages descended on Awat’ovi,
slaughtering their neighboring men, women, and children. While little of
the pueblo itself remains, five centuries of history lie beneath the
low rises of sandstone masonry, and theories about the events of that
night are as persistent as the desert winds. The easternmost town on
Antelope Mesa, Awat’ovi was renowned for its martial strength, and had
been the gateway to the entire Hopi landscape for centuries. Why did
kinsmen target it for destruction?
Drawing on oral traditions,
archival accounts, and extensive archaeological research, James Brooks
unravels the story and its significance. Mesa of Sorrows
follows the pattern of an archaeological expedition, uncovering layer
after layer of evidence and theories. Brooks questions their reliability
and shows how interpretations were shaped by academic, religious and
tribal politics. Piecing together three centuries of investigation, he
offers insight into why some were spared — women, mostly, and taken
captive — and others sacrificed. He weighs theories that the attack was in
retribution for Awat’ovi having welcomed Franciscan missionaries or for
the residents’ practice of sorcery, and argues that a perfect storm of
internal and external crises revitalized an ancient cycle of ritual
bloodshed and purification.
A haunting account of a shocking massacre, Mesa of Sorrows is a probing exploration of how societies confront painful histories, and why communal violence still plagues us today.
“Vivid…. Brooks tells this tragic story with great sensitivity and
power, offering readers a fascinating perspective on the history of the
American Southwest.” Publishers Weekly
“An engaging anthropological investigation into this difficult subject…. An attractive, authoritative read.” Library Journal
“In this rich work of anthropology, archaeology, and personal sleuthing,
James Brooks carefully unravels a mystery of enormous violence that
convulsed the desert Southwest some three hundred years ago — and that
still sends off psychic shockwaves. Here is a haunting tale that is also
deeply revealing, not only about the ancient Hopi Indians but all human
societies.” Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder
About the Author
James F. Brooks is professor of history and anthropology at University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of Captives and Cousins, which received the Bancroft, Francis Parkman, and Frederick Douglass Prizes. He lives in Santa Barbara.
James F. Brooks on PowellsBooks.Blog
Awat'ovi Pueblo is among the loneliest of places I've walked. Once the most vibrant town in the ancient Puebloan Southwest, center of a vast exchange network of decorated pottery, maize, and cotton textiles, rich in ceremonial life and eastern gateway to the Hopi mesas, it now hosts little but the wind and sun...