Spanish exploration of the Southwest in the 16th century was spurred by a vain search for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. Their expeditions fed on native reports – no doubt filtered through a prism of avarice – which probably derived from folk memories of the Anasazi Great Houses. Centred first at Chaco Canyon (where the largest Great House contained 600 rooms), later at Aztec/Mesa Verde, this civilization seems to have disintegrated in the 13th century. Either due to drought, Navajo/Apache incursion or civil war, a mass exodus occurred southward. The refugee influx destabilized the Hohokam culture. Previously peaceable, with open, unfortified communities cultivating the Sonoran Desert through an intricate canal network, the Hohokam began to build defences and abandon their recreational ball-courts. Paradoxically, migration produced a late renaissance for the Mogollon. Moving their base south from Mimbres to Casas Grande, they thrived on trade with Mexico of turquoise and cinnabar until 1450.
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