One of the most advanced tribes in early North American history was the Anasazi people of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.  They thrived for hundreds of years in the fertile red desert canyons, growing their culture and building impressive ancient villages.  But at the end of the 13th Century A.D., the Chaco Canyon people mysteriously and permanently disappeared. Though no universally accepted reason for this sudden decline has been found, recent archeological discoveries have led ZRS contributor, Ben Schuster, to suggest that a zombie plague may have been at work.

In 1997 a large quantity of Anasazi human remains were uncovered that showed evidence of death by violent dismemberment and cannibalism.  Other excavations of sites from that same area have revealed many more unburied, dismembered and partially eaten bodies.  These findings are particularly disturbing because there is nothing in the Anasazi tradition to explain why a peaceful people would resort to eating other human beings while they were still alive.  Furthermore, the possible explanations of war and famine have been largely ruled out by experts.

Existing theories argue that cultures as disparate as the ancient Roman Empire, and warrior tribes of Ecuador may have experienced their own infestations of the undead.  Though we may never have conclusive proof about what happened to the Anasazi, the mystery at Chaco Canyon is just another reminder of the fragility of civilization in the face of an overpowering zombie threat.



  1. I think that maybe one of the Anasazi Indians came back from hunting infected with the zombie virus and then spread to most of them and a large portion of the tribe was wiped out. Sadly zombies are a little studied subject by most historians and thus incidents involving the disease that causes zombies don’t get much attention. Best of luck to Ben Schuster in his research and hopefully we will all get answers and other zombie outbreak incidents or suspected zombie outbreak incidents get more scientific awareness

  2. Hello,

    I am an English teacher at Tierra Encantada Charter school located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In May, another teacher and myself are going to be leading a course called Outbreak: The Myths and Facts of Zomies. I stumbled across this site and blog and found it fascinating. I was wondering is there was an expert or someone who would be willing to give a brief tour of Chaco Canyon and discuss this information about the tribes connection to the idea of “zombie.” I look forward to hearing from you!
    Ms. Mascarenas

  3. No. I think they were trying out human sacrifice as a last resort to try and fix whatever problem they might have had like drought or famine. The practice might have been taken from their southern neighbors from Mexico, the Aztecs, who worshiped with human sacrifice. Or maybe they thought those people were cursing them and had an ancient witch hunt. The Hopis(descendants of Anasazi) experimented with human sacrifice at one point in their “peaceful” history. Google it. No zombies here IMHO.

  4. Actually, the Anasazi travelled north up into Colorado and mixed with other tribes, more than once. We know this because of DNA testing and archeological finds that show what route they took. Drought and famine are the most likely reasons that forced the Anasazi to move from their settlements and probably contributed to the reason they didn’t ultimately return to their homes. The only reason there is any debate as to what happened to the
    Anasazi is, most people, save for arizona and colorado native archeologists, don’t know that there is an answer.
    – Archeology Excavator, 4 years

  5. Is it possible that the famous Lost Legion of Rome were the victims of a zombie outbreak? No one has actually found any evidence of them, such as bones or weapons and armour.

  6. Hey! And who says a “Zombie” wouldn’t chill a little and cook a hunk of meat? If we are talking about an infecion causing zombie like behavior, and not really DEAD people, then why not? I like my steak really rare, but not raw! That does not change no matter how crazy sick I get!………just sayin’

  7. Most of this is true I live very near where the anasazi lived and I can tell you one thing that when I walked in one of the buildings in the tribes or whatever you would call them. Their was a LOT of dried blood leading out the door way and into a small alleyway of some kind then just dissapeared.

    • please, tell me more. was it just one house or many? how dry was the blood? Who would rid the village of it’s corpses and skeletons?

  8. Where are your sources? Is this article about a ZRS “contributor’s” ideas? There’s lots of Paraphrasing going on.

    • As the “contributor” mentioned in this article I would like to say that there is much more to this article than just my ideas. The Anasazi people actually existed in the southern U.S. and mysteriously disappeared. The only “idea” that I presented to the writer of the article was that we know very little about what happened to these people and a zombie outbreak seems as logical as any other cause we can think of. There are no sources cited in this article, however information about the Anasazi should be easy to track down.

      • bruv i still think in most of the cases ive read on this site its jus ergot mold causing every1 to trip intensely a few may act like cannibals while haveing a stronger hit of L.S.D than u could buy nowadays if they were ingesting any wheat products then its very possible if they leave it in a hot place while its moist then turn it in2 bread

      • Joe, wouldn’t that be unlikely, as wheat was not introduced to the Americas until much later? (maze being the prominent food item)

        also, hallucination is a rare side effect of ergot poisoning, while being rendered immobile from wracking pain is almost universal. gangrene could certainly cause a decayed appearance, but afaik, cannibalism or violent activity are never attributes of this malady.

        i would say ergot poisoning is one of the more unlikely causes of misreported zombie outbreaks.

  9. How do we know what happened in the past..? how do we REALLY know?

    I mean seriously, if all we have to “prove” the things that were stated down as ‘history’ are true is a few skull and bones then what truth is there really there?

    Alls you need to produce history is a few bodies and a really good lie..

    Yes we’ve been told these stories over and over about say, the battle of Hastings and what-not, but still, how can we prove THAT wasn’t ended due to a zombie epidemic?

    We need to question the past. Was it real, or is it conspiracy?

  10. Dustin Lambright

    I’ve always been interested in strange occurrences. So, this fascinates me a lot. I wonder if there is more zombie history.

  11. @ Ben: Now THAT is what I call a theory! Clear, logical connections between the incidences based on something other that speculation. Then likelihood of that being the reason for the distance (of time and space) between theorized outbreaks is high.

  12. Of all the noted incidents, I find this one to be the most likely. The only evidence that suggests the cannibalism was done by normal humans is that some of the remains found appeared boiled or charred, which means that they were cooked, something zombies wouldn’t think to do. Then again, there could be another explanation for that.

    • It is possible that the burning and charring came after the people had turned into zombies. The fire could have been used to kill the zombies or purge the plague rather than cooking them before eating them.

      • I was thinking something along those lines. Or a panicked fire, something like that. It’s plausible.

      • I agree that this is the more plausible of the incidents listed here. It could have been that they were taking part in cannibalism before an epidemic, which exacerbated the cravings. Or worse, if we look at an disease we do know of, associated with an inappropriate diet – mad cow disease – in theory, the initial cannibalism could have been a catalyst for a (theoretical) outbreak.

  13. I like your theory of the virus sort of “going dormant”. We have seen throughout history exactly this happen. Those who survive the initial outbreak could easily be carriers, but have some kind of heightened immunity. It makes me think of smallpox and even the common flu virus, which though devestating, was not a very effective killer of the European colonists who settled the America’s. You expose that same virus to the native population, though, who have had no exposure prior, and the toll is devastating. Then, the virus travels, by whatever means of infection it has, and when it reaches a new populace that has never seen its like before, the cycle starts over again. If it is a fast mutating virus, then this increases the possibility. There are plenty of viruses that have two versions, a carried version that exhibits no symptoms, and the infectious version that does. Maybe this has some bearing on the distance between outbreaks, both in time and space.

  14. Is there any evidence of migration of the zombie infection? We do not have a date for the Ecuadorian headhunters but we do have one for the Mayans (~10th century A.D.), Chaco Canyon (~12th-13th century A.D.) and Roanoke (~1590 A.D). It seems that with these dates and the locations of these places that some sort of migration would be possible. That it might have started somewhere in the jungles of Ecuador and then spread northward and the eastern.

    The length of time it would have taken to get from place to place seems realistic. Given that we don’t know what exactly what type of infection it is there might be a possibility that something triggered it or it mutated, ravaged a society, and then it went dormant again in someone that thought that the infection had gone away. Then that this person carried it and possibly transferred it to other people including their offspring for quite some time.

    It also seems possible that some sort of animal could carry the disease without being infected by it. The Black Plague spread from China to most of Europe over about 350 years and was carried by fleas and rats. These people or animals could have carried the infection and passed it on with little to no evidence of it until it was too late and destroyed these civilizations.

    There is some evidence of communication between these people. With the exception of Roanoke there is some connection between artwork, religious beliefs, trade goods from different areas, etc. Maybe without knowing it they traded this infection in addition to pottery, rare stones, and other things of value.

    The people of Roanoke would most likely have had some contact with native peoples. With the number of tribes across North America and the number of hunting and gathering bands it does not seem unrealistic that there would be some sort of connection from New Mexico to Virginia.

    Based on the extensive trade routes we have seen in other parts of the world the distance seems possible, in addition to the evidence we have of these people sharing parts of their culture with each other. The evidence we have about other infections, especially the black plague, being spread by animals that showed no signs of being sick or people carrying a dormant infection or part of a virus that in the right situation mutated itself into this also seems viable.

    Now the big question is did the infection in the America’s die off in Roanoke somehow, or is it just dormant somewhere waiting to come back?

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