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Indigenous civilizations are far older and more complex than history suggests (lithub.com)
76 points by pseudolus 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 72 comments



Aren't all civilizations far older and more complex than history can account for? We don't really know how the pyramids arrived, or a detailed history of England back very far -- who created Stonehenge?

It's interesting that the migration out of Africa and over to the Americas happened so much longer ago than previously thought, but it doesn't change what happened when the European settlers arrived. The author seems to be asserting that this gives the Native Americans more claim than they would otherwise have.

But I don't understand that logic; human history, known and unknown, is littered with people suffering under the hands of conquerors. The story is the same in Asia and Europe as it is in the Americas. The Natives themselves weren't always peaceful and conquered and claimed land from each other. Hopefully we can do better than this going forward, but the past is what it is, a harsh existence for victors and even more so for the vanquished.


The justification frequently used for western colonialism/conquest is the principle of “Terra Nullius”, in short, the native peoples with their primative technology are not fully utilising the land, and we’re doing them a favor by conquering them.

it turns out after the fact that in many respects, particularly with regards to agriculture, land management, diplomacy, and some areas of engineering, the native people were more advanced, and the permanent loss of that knowledge is a tragedy for the world.


Also, somehow "Terra Nullius" only gets applied after the fact.

I imagine violently chasing off the owner of a deer lease to convert it to more efficient use would not be smiled upon. Even though deer hunting is exactly what Native Americans were doing with the land originally.

And building housing on someone else's golf-course or occupying and building on a long empty city lot you don't own are both unimaginably illegal.


Fact is might makes right and then you make up bullshit to justify it. See human rights. It's not like any of this is over, it's just convenient to talk about stuff that we've already done than talk about the stuff that we're doing so as to seem as we've progressed and are so much better than we used to be.

Most of our culture and technology is not sustainable... The way primitive people were living would allow them to live on the planet until an asteroid came and wiped them out, which could be millions of years. The way we're living will probably see us go extinct in the next 10,000 years.


The Myth of the noble savage is also propagated by our culture. Its just that, a myth.

If you look at truly historical documents, such as Lewis and Clark's expedition, you'd learn that Native Americans killed Buffalo to an incredible degree.

Read May 29, 1805: https://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/item/lc.jrn.1805-05-29

> [T]oday we passed on the Stard. side the remains of a vast many mangled carcases of Buffalow which had been driven over a precipice of 120 feet by the Indians and perished; the water appeared to have washed away a part of this immence pile of slaughter and still their remained the fragments of at least a hundred carcases they created a most horrid stench

The natives would slaughter the ENTIRE HERD at a time, in this case by scaring them off a 120-foot cliff. The natives wouldn't eat all of them, it was more important to kill all the buffalo so that no survivor could teach their friends how to avoid the kill move.

The journal entry above describes how the natives managed to trick entire herds into jumping over a cliff. It involved dressing up in buffalo skins, and trying to start the stampede in the direction of the cliff.

> The way primitive people were living would allow them to live on the planet until an asteroid came and wiped them out, which could be millions of years.

On the contrary. We at least take the bad parts of bulls / cows and turn it into hamburgers and/or spam. The natives would slaughter many Bison and then leave them to rot in the river.

----------

In any case, the ills of our society are certainly great. But don't assume that the natives were better than us just because they were more primitive. In many ways, their ways were savage and wasteful.

It requires a keen eye and a careful understanding of history to fully make a judgement upon a society, especially a society which has been basically wiped out of the modern era.


> If you look at truly historical documents, such as Lewis and Clark's expedition, you'd learn that Native Americans killed Buffalo to an incredible degree.

And the Europeans built railroads and paid people to shoot them dead from trains specifically to starve natives. They pretty much wiped them out.

> The natives would slaughter the ENTIRE HERD at a time, in this case by scaring them off a 120-foot cliff. The natives wouldn't eat all of them, it was more important to kill all the buffalo so that no survivor could teach their friends how to avoid the kill move.

> The journal entry above describes how the natives managed to trick entire herds into jumping over a cliff. It involved dressing up in buffalo skins, and trying to start the stampede in the direction of the cliff.

And despite all of this there were still tons of buffalo around.

> In any case, the ills of our society are certainly great. But don't assume that the natives were better than us just because they were more primitive. In many ways, their ways were savage and wasteful.

I am not saying they were better than us, I am simply saying their way of doing things was having little impact on the planet whereas in our way of doing things is teraforming the planet. All the top soil is being depleted and we don't actually know how to replace all the stuff we're depleting we just take it as granted. We are sustaining 300 million people while the natives were sustaining maybe a million. Litany of things which are different and not conducive to long term survival.


estimates of pre-colonial north american population are between 8 million and 112 million.


For sure. But there are countless other examples of people being conquered too, all over the world, and not just by Europeans. There is no justification needed, other than that's what humans did back then. It was a much more primitive and brutal example of survival of the fittest. And as much as it offends our sensibilities now, it is the very path that leads us to where we find ourselves today.

We can struggle to be more just and compassionate with each other today, but our ancestors lived in a very different and harsh reality. It's not pretty, but it was a reality for a lot longer than this brief period we're living in now.


> There is no justification needed, other than that's what humans did back then.

When was the time justification started to be required?

Because people knew it was bad in 15th century already. When it suited them :)

This guy was trying to persuade pope that forcibly converting pagans was a bad idea and that Teutonic Order shouldn't be conquering and ruling over them just cause they are pagans.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pawe%C5%82_W%C5%82odkowic

Of course, he only had an opportunity to say so because Poland had an interest in preventing Teutonic Order from growing. But still.

Also - fighting wars isn't something we only did "back then". If you live in a "developed world" odds are - your country fought a war in last 2 decades.

We still do it, right now. Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed parts of it a few years ago and there's still a war going on there as we speak, with hundreds people killed each year.

Israel just bombed Syrian army forces last week and repeatedly pushes Palestinians out of their territory.

USA is fighting a war somewhere almost each year for the last 100 years or so (admitedly - there's little conquering, it's mostly "sphere of influence" stuff).

Iraq and Afghanistan is obvious, and half of NATO participated, including my country.

This is not something we grew out of. It's just that when the system works - it happens far away from the "important" countries, so we can pretend we grew wise and don't do this shit anymore.

It was the same in the late 19th century - you were supposed to fight your wars far away, so you can have your European parts comfy and peaceful. Only when the system fails and you have wars in "important" countries - people suddenly get back to reality.


"But there are countless other examples of people being conquered too, all over the world, and not just by Europeans."

An example of the relatively rare Tu Quoque logical fallacy in the wild! Or maybe you weren't arguing that it was okay because non Europeans did it, in which case it's more of a red herring.

"There is no justification needed, other than that's what humans did back then. It was a much more primitive and brutal example of survival of the fittest. And as much as it offends our sensibilities now, it is the very path that leads us to where we find ourselves today."

And yet people wrote extensively about their justifications for such behavior back then, and there were those whose sensibilities were offended in the past. For example, this 1550 debate on native captivity and rights, "http://digital.lib.lehigh.edu/trial/justification/newspain/e...

Here's more about Las Casas's defense of native rights, "https://www.thoughtco.com/bartolome-de-las-casas-2136332"

If the question could be considered in the 1500's, I see no reason why we can't talk about it now.

"We can struggle to be more just and compassionate with each other today, but our ancestors lived in a very different and harsh reality. It's not pretty, but it was a reality for a lot longer than this brief period we're living in now."

Compassion and justice aren't some new innovation from this century, but have been a concern of human beings for millennia in a variety of cultures. As well, the idea that we are morally superior to the past, in my personal view, a recipe for moral turpitude, and cultural torpor. It suggests that things are all good now.

Anyway, I feel like papering over the past by saying that we were primitive brutes is a little rich, given that that was the very justification used by so many Europeans for enslavement and genocide; that is, that the civilizing influence of their culture was needed.


History is rife with debate on the morality of conquest, this probably goes back to the dawn of civilisation. If there is one thing which can be learned from history it is that homo sapiens is a querulous and aggressive species which is more than eager to use might to force its will on others, whether they be other humans or other species. As to whether a given group, tribe, people or nation ends up in the history books as conquerors or conquered depends amongst others on where those moral discussions took them. Those who saw themselves as conquerors ended up conquering others until they themselves were defeated, conquered and sometimes annihilated by other conquerors.

One thing is clear though: when two people meet and one of them has a club or sword or gun and is willing to use it that person gets to force his - or possibly her - will on the other. This goes for individuals just as much as it goes for groups, tribes, people or nations. This is a simple statement of fact, not a defence of the ideologies which leads some to pick up arms to conquer. It is also the reason why the history books are full of conquest and why some cultures which are generally seen as 'advanced' succumbed to 'less advanced' cultures.


Refreshing to see another historically educated mind in this thread.


Back then? Hawaii was made a state in 1959. There was still quite a lot of colonization related conflict happening in the 20th century.


The people of Hawaii actively campaigned for statehood in 1959. Not quite understanding the context of your argument here.


They did, yes. Have you ever looked into how they got there?

The Republic of Hawaii, founded at the very end of the 19th century led to annexation by the United States (one since admitted to and apologized for, as it happens) and it wasn't until the fifties that largely non-native plantation owners were sufficiently pushed back to have those little things like "democracy" actually mean much of anything.

Outside of this specific example, the Scramble for Africa is generally not considered to have ended until 1914, with the results of it and similar Middle Eastern colonial efforts not really shaking out until after the Second World War.


Before that. When the U.S. ambassador conspired with U.S. citizens in Hawaii to overthrow the existing monarchy.[1]

Accounts I've heard explain it as U.S. businessmen (or their proxies) stormed the palace and held the monarchy hostage until a a document dissolving the current nation was signed (under duress).

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaii#Overthrow_of_1893_%E2%8...


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Debating the world as it was in 1492-1800s is hardly relevant to colonization in the 'modern world'.

Even the mindset of World War 1 where 70k French or German people would die in a single day vs even the 1960s with Vietnam war (where <70k Americans dying was a massive tragedy) sounds silly today. We evolve as a species and the tribes in South America and North America and Africa and (insert historical region) who were in constant war prior to foreign intervention weren't much different at a far smaller scale. The primary different is the absence of modern technology, communication, population levels, continental level geopolitics, etc, at their finger tips to ramp it up to 1914 levels.

The ideological parties who are obsessed with viewing history through the lenses of these power dynamics as the only defining metric are inherently irrational and intentionally ignorant of all of the macro/micro-level realities of the lifestyles of all people at that times. The difference between a colonizer and a local war lord starts to look very thin once you take a high level view of history, factoring in the historical day-to-day realities of the era.

If you're going to talk about colonization, as it is used in modern political discourse, keep it in your political debates not historical ones.

Otherwise it took time and the invention of political and legal systems to constrain these sorts of power abuses. But to only judge those in history who held a particular imbalance in power is a ridiculous way to view history. And an ever worse ideological foundation on which to run a country (as we've seen with countless examples of failures in history where economic/social systems were built around power imbalances as the prime motivation over the actual realities and needs of people within a society).


" vs even the 1960s with Vietnam war (where <70k Americans dying was a massive tragedy) "

Kind of a US-centric view, as there were also some dead Vietnamese as well as civilian casualties as well.

So if you take those numbers: WW1, 9.7 million dead soldiers, 10 million dead civilian and compare it to 1.3 million dead soldiers and 3-5 million civilians - then WW1 was actually much more civil, as the ratio of dead civillians vs. soldier was around 1:1 vs 2 or three dead civilians for every dead soldier in vietnam.

Might have to do with the fact, that the US dropped more bombs on Vietnam than in whole WW2 together (plus poisening with agent orange etc.)

But yes, also 60000 us boys died. The only real tragedy here.


> But yes, also 60000 us boys died. The only real tragedy here.

I never said that. I never made any moral judgement about any entire war or country. Since you're clearly inventing your own strawman to argue with I won't get in your way. Other than to say I was making a very specific analogy to make a point. An analogy about the evolving tolerances of nation states towards evil... using two related historical examples (keyword: related). No where did I say that was the "only real tragedy" of any war or time period, nor make any grand statements about the Vietnam war in general.

I know 'progressives' think every phrase and paragraph has to be prefaced with a 100x conditionals as to not offend every party and cover all bases. I'm also aware people feel the need in a self-interested way to add in these conditionals - as to not be misconstrued by social media outrage culture - who are more than happy to take your words out of context. But I'd rather not go down that road in life. It's anti-intellectual and anti-rational.


I did not say you said that.

I just pointed out that your thinking of the vietnam war by only mentioning US losses is telling. And went further on that road.


  weren't much different at a far smaller scale
You are literally saying the exact thing this article is arguing against. There were nearly 100 million people living in the Americas before Europeans arrived.

It was in the direct orders and manifesto of the invading parties to conquer and enslave these lands and NOT integrate peacefully.

It applies to the modern world because this forced coercion still exists today. Sad to see so many here not understanding of that.


How exactly would you have peacefully integrated the indigenous people (some / many that were essentially still living a Neolithic existence) with what were some of the most powerful and advanced civilizations at the time?


the aztecs had an empire, a civilization, with pyramids, systems of agriculture, public schools, museums full of massive detailed gold statues, and organised sport. they invented basketball and chocolate. there were many kther advanced civilizations that we will only ever know the tiniest amount of, because they all died of smallpox. the only groups to survive were the nomads, cherokee, lakota, apache, etc. because they could avoid the spread of disease.

the view that they were cavemen is part of the whole terra nullius argument, trying to cast them as essentially fauna.


You forgot the bit which told of how the Aztecs [1] became to be the power they were back in the day: by a combination of military conquest and, to a lesser extent, trade. Before the Aztecs became the power they were there were the Toltecs, another militaristic culture which lost steam and got overrun by Chichimec tribes. It was from those tribes that the Aztecs rose, seemingly out of a group of a few thousand Chichimecs which had been forced out to a group of islands after sacrificing a princess from a neighbouring tribe. They gradually rose in power after conquering a few cities on the mainland and forming alliances with other tribes. First under Montezuma I and later under his successor they 'evolved an ideology of themselves as a chosen people destined to conquer' according to [2]. This ideology served them well and lead them to become the dominant power in what is now Mexico until they came into contact with another group of people who saw themselves as conquerors, better known in their own language as conquistadores [3].

In other words, those Aztecs with their pyramids and systems of agriculture were just like those who came before them and those who came after them. All they lacked was the firepower of those who conquered them and immunity to - to them - exotic diseases, otherwise the world would look different from what it looks like today.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztecs

[2] https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/military-history/the...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conquistador


I think he's saying we should have let the Aztecs continue sacrificing humans to their gods and viciously attacking the weaker tribes in the north and south of Tenochtitlan... because they were there first.


no, my point was that the justification for conquering them “they were living like neolithic people” is nonsense.


I admit to being ignorant of the details in the Tar Sands case, but I don't think that it's relevant to what I was trying to say really. If an injustice is being visited upon a Native population, i'm all for them prevailing in a fight to restore fairness.

But human history is what it is, regardless of our modern sensibilities and desire to do better moving forward. Out in the raw brutal nature that existed for most of human history, strong men conquered and weaker men perished, that's just the way it was. Nature was trying to kill us all, and everyone was trying to survive the best they could to pass their genes on. Even at the expense of their neighbors. That is the script for most of history, and we can't go back and change it. It is what has helped us get to this point today where we're talking to each other over incredible technologies and enjoying a much easier life than Kings of old. It's not nice, it's not picturesque, it's just the simple reality of it.


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I'm saying that nature set up the octagon, and our ancestors fought it out. If you believe in evolution / natural selection being a force to hone the most well adapted creatures possible, then as unsavory as it is, all that mayhem and loss of life did play a role in getting us here today. Don't hate the player, hate the game.


So, if I killed you today, that would be fine because "nature set up the octagon"? I seem to have wandered onto an UFC/MMA forum or something..


> So, if I killed you today, that would be fine because "nature set up the octagon"? I seem to have wandered onto an UFC/MMA forum or something..

As far as I can tell, the universe doesn't care if I live or die, so it's "fine" in that sense, yes. If there was some benefit to you and your progeny, you'd be wise to do it. You might have to navigate our modern legal system mind you ;-) And of course humans are capable of cooperation too, I might be more valuable to you as an ally. Your call.


The threat of nuclear war precipitated the development of a network which could withstand widespread destruction. That's not the same as genocide (as that implies something systematic), but is does seem safe to say that having the Internet (or at least got started having one) is more or less a direct consequence of developing nuclear weapons. I'm not saying such weapons (or the destruction they were designed to create) were a good thing, but war (or the threat thereof) has been a large driving force of tech development (not to mention advances in surgery/medicine).


So you're advocating for war because we might get some more cool technology out of it and not, say from economic growth, or cooperation of two interested minds?


I believe "Terra Nullius" was used primarily with respect to aboriginal lands in Australia. Relative to North America and New Zealand the pattern was usually to maintain the pretext of legality by signing treaties and then violating them to the point where they became meaningless.

Coursera is offering a course on "Indigenous Canada" that starts on January 23 and offers a great overview on the history of the relationship between First Nations/Metis and Canada [0].

[0] https://www.coursera.org/learn/indigenous-canada


> The justification frequently used for western colonialism/conquest is the principle of “Terra Nullius”, in short, the native peoples with their primative technology are not fully utilising the land, and we’re doing them a favor by conquering them.

That is debatable (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_nullius#History), the term/concept may not have even existed during the land grabbing periods of colonialism.


Regardless, it's a common retroactive justification. The idea that the Americas were "empty" when Europeans arrived was taught to me in the late nineties. (Never was it stated why, and my teachers got very uncomfortable when I pointed it out.)


In order to move forward from this cycle of history it is meaningful to look at how the spoils of the conquerors continue to accrue for their descendants in unequal measure. The history you are eager to dismiss as the past is well alive, history in name only.


> We don't really know how the pyramids arrived, or a detailed history of England back very far -- who created Stonehenge?

We actually know answers to both of those questions fairly well now. Archeology has advanced, and what questions remain are mostly a matter of details.


It doesn't seem likely Khufu had actually built the pyramids, but modified them into his own vision. We still don't know what the pyramids were originally designed for, but it seems unlikely the previous owner had intended it to be a tomb.


AFAIK that’s a YouTube myth. The burial chamber is built into the structure of the pyramid, not mined out of it; there is no evidence of retrofitting. We’ve uncovered and dated work sites and living areas for the people who constructed it, which coincide with known old kingdom chronology. That theory also doesn’t explain why there happens to be exactly three major pyramids at that site with minor pyramids in numbers that coincide with three generations of pharaohs and their consorts. It also doesn’t explain the clear progression of pyramid building leading up to the Great pyramids at Giza.


If that is a myth, it is older than Youtube.

Unfortunately, unless we invent time travel or discover an important find, it is anyone's guess as if what you wrote (the established history as written by British archeologists) is correct.... it merely is the most popular theory at the moment.


Not British archeologists, although I’m not sure why that’s relevant. We don’t need time machines when we have radio-carbon dating of fires and refuse at work sites, scattered graffiti (e.g. “Khufu’s ____” as the name of a work gang stamped into the surface of an inner stone), and the later written chronologies.


We have some clues that weren't destroyed - The pulse pump chamber, the waveguides. With enough advanced study, it may be possible to reconstruct a working model.


Natives where peaceful. Land belongs to the great spirit. They were conquered by the invaders..


It might just be me, but those seem like very broad generalizations over a large number of unique cultures.


I was looking at some of Egypt's history. Kind of interesting the Old Kingdom figured out pyramids, built the biggest only around 100 years after the first, then it was all downhill from there.

Makes me wonder if we hit a high point landing people on the moon, and everything's just going to go downhill for the next few thousand years.


If the thesis of Progress & Poverty is correct, then the cyclic nature of civilization is due primarily to the tendency of the labor cost of acquiring unimproved land for productive workers to increase faster than the rate at which wages can be accumulated to acquire it. If this is the case, then the decline of our present phase of civilization may have begun in the 1930s, when state governments in the United States begun replacing property taxes with sales taxes, as the share of total government revenues raised from property taxes has now fallen from 40-50% to less than 10%, and the share is even lower in other countries.

However while the Roman Republic relied primarily a 1-3% annual property tax on wealth to fund its early expansion from 509BC, it had abandoned public assessed domestic property taxes by 167BC at the latest, yet the the Roman Empire reached its height in 117AD. So the point in time at which a country eliminates domestic property taxes on landed wealth in order to maximize the private capture of rent for its political class is unlikely to represent the peak or maximum of the civilization, but rather an initial inflection point, in which case a peak of our current phase of civilization during the 1960s may have been possible, with the inflection point occurring earlier.


You are mixing things that don't have anything to do with each other. Two empires separated by more than a thousand of years.

While talking about an Empire expansion you omit the biggest factor: You expand or grow conquering-stealing-destroying others and the limit for this is geographic, not taxes.

In the particular case of the Roman Empire they needed to communicate all the provinces, and they did that by sea, mainly using the Mediterranean Sea. There was no train, like there is today(which is a tremendous difference as it is several orders of magnitude of difference transporting things).

Once you conquered all the Mediterranean Sea, there was nothing else to conquer, communicating by land was super expensive. Today it is the size of the world, until we get out to other planets.

Also in today's world there are weapons of mass destruction like nuclear weapons. If you try to grow at the expense of others you could get destroyed.


"acquiring unimproved land "

When land + labour is the primary means of product, maybe, bu since that hasn't been the case for a while and may not either have been the case in aboriginal territories, I'm not sure it applies.


Maybe they undertook pyramids too fanatically altogether, and that that was their downfall. The thought-leaders thought pyramids were the best investment, instead of astronomy.

The downfall may have been an effect of the great thing. Pyramids, sweet! There's a drought coming.

I wouldn't go for the moon landing, not because it wasn't great, but it wasn't an all-consuming investment by civilization. There are a lot stronger modern candidates.


How was it “downhill” from there? The great pyramid is rather simple as far as art and cultural complexity goes. I would actually say it is quite crude, and later middle and new dynastic period works are much more impressive, even if they are less gargantuan in scale.


> The great pyramid is rather simple as far as art and cultural complexity goes.

That may be so, but it remains as a feat of project unmatched in their history, the one great wonder that survived. I am not sure how many would be able to name the pyramids that came after. There's a huge amount of precision involved and a huge amount of effort required of the culture to complete.

Similarly you could argue that with space exploration we've become significantly more advanced, our probes and instruments can do things the ones in the 60's couldn't. Yet, we haven't sent anymore humans past low earth orbit. In a sense we've advanced, the individual efforts remain great, but our cultural efforts have retreated, the weight of humanity is not where it once was.

What's most going to be remembered of our culture in 5000 years?


> What’s most going to be remembered of our culture in 5000 years?

There is a good chance that computers will have an uninterrupted existence for the next 5000 years, and we’ll be remembered for creating the first network with 1billion+ users, similarly to how the Romans are remembered for their roads and aqueducts. This is a particularly exciting case because large amounts of data we generate could survive!

In the case that history is largely forgotten, similarly to how we have a heavy fog around knowledge of society 5000 years ago, I can imagine future archeologicists being very surprised to find large piles of fissionable materials. This has the potential to be very sensational in future pop culture.


It has been suggested that since we have exhausted the easily accessible ressources on this planet, human civilization would have a hard time restarting from scratch.

Either this society continues (and solves huge environmental challenges along the way), or we have a scifi scenario, where a group of humans on faraway planets forget about old Earth, or no one will be able to remember or rediscover us.


We could have pre-industrial civilizations that arise on Earth if we exhaust the natural resources. I imagine that we have enough scrap metal lying around to not prohibit post-disaster civilizations from working with metal.

It’s really a matter of how bad the ecological disaster is, I can imagine a point where it’s bad enough to cause a collapse of our current civilizations but not bad enough to prohibit smaller less technologically advanced civilizations.


The International Space Station gas happened since, which has been continuously lived in. That's an achievement compared to a short trip on the moon kicking a few rocks.


And we’re getting more efficient at launching vehicles to transit. We have the same boosters being reused!


Major factual error in the article that undermines the significance of these findings:

> Like the Meadowcroft site, Monte Verde has been dated to as many as 19,000 years ago. Together the sites are important and do more than help us understand how and when North America was settled; they also show that there were people in North America well before the Bering land bridge formed about 10,000 years ago, throwing into dispute the theory that North America was settled primarily by Asiatic wanderers over the bridge.

The Bering land bridge was NOT formed 10000 years ago -- that's when it was covered by water.

All this proves is that people settled in one place 19000 years ago. They probably still came from Asia. Nothing revolutionary here.


> The Bering land bridge was NOT formed 10000 years ago -- that's when it was covered by water.

You're right that Beringia was most recently waterfree from c30000BCE to c11000BCE but that doesn't really detract from the central theme of the article around Indian - settler interaction.


OK, so indigenous civilizations in the Americas go back at least 20-30 kyr before European invasion. And it seems that they had more or less reached equilibrium with their environment.

Sure, they used fire to modify the environment. In the Midwest, for example, they pushed the prairie-forest boundary several hundred miles north. And in the East, they burned to keep down forest undergrowth.

And sure, mammoths disappeared. But the buffalo did OK, until the Europeans. More prairie arguably benefited them.

So it all sounds quite idyllic, in a way.

But, conversely, they didn't invent wheels. Or glass. And only some metalworking. And mostly for decoration, not weapons.

I wonder why that was. I've read Jared Diamond, but it all seems so contrived. Maybe it was just that they didn't trade a lot with China ;)


Why do you find the lack of domesticatable animals an unsatisfactory explanation? You don't need an oxcart without an ox.


That is a good point. But people can also pull carts, and often have. And there were wolves, from which Europeans bred dogs. Maybe deer and buffalo aren't amenable to domestication. But I don't recall Diamond's arguments and evidence about that.

And what about iron weapons? I presume that there was meteoric iron lying about, as in Europe. And glass. Why didn't they independently discover glass?

I suspect that there was something generally about indigenous American culture that favored peaceful coexistence. Notwithstanding some ritual warfare, of course. But they just didn't seem as driven as Old World cultures were.


You might also be interested in another pop-history book, _Paper_. What I'd call its central thesis is that society changes technology, rather than technology changing society. It explores this thesis through the history of the adoption of paper, trying to substantiate the claim that paper was available for centuries before it was adopted by civilizations, and it was only adopted after those civilizations developed a pressing need for massive amounts of cheap, high-quality writing material -- prior to that, people persisted in using more expensive, difficult to produce parchment despite having the option of cheaper paper.

Another thing to consider is any technology you might mention, like glass and iron, are relatively recent as developed technologies, about 2-3000 years old, with some older precursors. Moreover, they were developed and spread over the course of hundreds or a thousand or more years. Different parts of the Eurasia entered the Iron Age ~3000 years ago, while other parts -- parts connected by trade and separated by a few hundred miles -- didn't enter the Iron Age until ~2000 years ago.

So the other question is, to what extent is it meaningful that the Americas, which did not have the benefit of Eurasian trade, had not independently entered the Iron Age ~500 years ago? Is that a meaningful delay that needs to be explained, or is it just the variation that should be expected to occur by the accumulation of chance factors?

Re: domestication, there were domesticated dogs in the pre-Columbian Americas, but it was not an independent domestication. Deer and buffalo are not regarded as domesticatable; there were llamas and alpacas as large domesticated animals, but their range was limited and mountainous.


"I wonder why that was"

Maybe the old cliché: Necessity

oversimplified: when you already live in Heavens, you don't need to invent the Bible.

I have always Hated cliches since a very early age. At 40, I realized they are underestimated.

As Confucius maybe said ( I wasn't there) :

"The Man stops crawling and stand up to start walking at around age 40"

Confucius


Were the Americas really that idyllic?


good point. Thanks for noting. So probably or surely there are other factors too.

Europe , for what I saw in Asterix comics, at least, looked pretty nice too. And was probably wonderful and beautiful and not that hostile, in real life.

But necessity is strong, very strong, in many situations.

There is the old Sufi tale ( if I recall, it is sufi )

"The old man came and killed the only cow the poor family relied to survived, for years of poverty. The family cried. Years later, the family said thank you to the old man, they are rich now"

Just a story, not trying to make any strong point.

Weather is the key, I think

off course, the world in my opinion, is better without swords and bullets and hypersonic gliders that burns to death thousands at a time. But some people think all tech are good things. each to their own.

and Comments, as paper, accepts anything you put on them. And words can be used to support anything.


Yeah, I totally agree. I mean, 20-30 kyr of ~stability is amazing. And here we are, after maybe 10 kyr of technology, pushing atmospheric CO2 to arguably dire levels. And the anthropgenic extinction event. Not to mention those hypersonic gliders. Although they are damn cool, you gotta admit.

And so is the Internet :)

"Live fast, die young.", as they say.


I confess I feel guilty to admit that Proton rockets and Avangarde devices are indeed cool. But far from me, like the snow. I like the snow in movies.


I wish the article was more in line with the title - the title comes up a little bit, but the article is mostly about white-Indian interaction, and not about Indian civilizations. Which makes sense, because the book this is excerpted from is subtitled "Native America from 1890 to present'.


I highly recommend the book 1491, which goes pretty deeply into what we can infer about the pre-Columbian Americas.


I’m currently reading it. It’s mind blowing to see that there were peoples in Americas further than 13k years ago.

For those looking to read it, make sure to get the 400-some page version of this book. There is a similarly named book aimed at grade school kids.

https://www.amazon.com/1491-Revelations-Americas-Before-Colu...

https://www.amazon.com/Before-Columbus-Americas-Charles-Mann...



Just to note that colonization, or the criminal robbing of their lands and destruction of their homes and homelands is Not, Not, a thing from the Past.

An indigenous woman or child was killed or kicked out of their land this week somewhere in the world.

The amazon forest is good place to start looking. But this is happening in other continents too.




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