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India and various types of Indians

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Jenny
744219.  Fri Sep 17, 2010 2:44 pm Reply with quote

If we can get away with calling Native Americans 'American Indians' (and certainly the Maine tribes do so, I believe, though Woodsman knows more about them than I do) this might be a fruitful topic, along with other types of Indians and India itself.

I came across this the other day, which I had not heard of before and I thought very interesting. It's from a book published this year called Lost To Time, by Martin Sandler, published by Sterling.

Martin Sandler wrote:
There was one remarkable community north of the Rio Grande, a city that by 1150 CE had become the largest urban center north of Mexico, a record that would stand until Philadelphia surpassed it in the late 1700s.

It is difficult to imagine a city covering more than six square miles flourishing in the Mississippi Valley some 350 years before Columbus reached the New World, a city, which at its zenith in about 1150 contained a population estimated by some experts to have been as high as thirty thousand, more inhabitants than any contemporary European city, including London. Its people constructed enormous pyramid-shaped earthen mounds (the largest, Monks Mound, has a base larger than that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt), designed and built solar observatories, and carried out a far-flung trade. Its name was Cahokia. ...

The city of Cahokia was physically dominated by the Monks Mound, named for French Trappist monks who lived in a monastery nearby in the early 1800s and gardened on the mound. Cahokia was built in a dozen or more phases beginning in about 900 CE, a time described by archeologists as the 'Big Bang,' a period in which, for still unknown reasons, thousands of Native Americans from surrounding regions poured into Cahokia and the city experienced as much as a tenfold increase in its population.

Covering an area of fourteen acres, making it larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza, the clay stab that serves as the base of Monks Mound is about 954 feet long and 774 feet wide. The enormous structure stretches 100 feet from its base to its top. ...

Most archaeologists who have worked the site are in agreement that the temple or palace atop Monks Mound was the focal point from which Cahokia's rulers carried out various political and religious rituals, including prayers for favorable weather to nurture the acres of maize that stretched out from the city as far as the eye could see. Excavations have also revealed that at some point in the mound's various phases of construction a low platform was extended out from one of its sides, creating a stage from which priests could perform ceremonies in full view of the public.

What is perhaps most intriguing of all is the question of how Monks Mound was constructed. Archaeologists calculate that the structure contains twenty-two million cubic feet of earth, which was dug with stone tools and carried out in baskets on people's backs to the ever- growing mound.

Sally A. Kitt Chappell provided a graphic calculation of the enormous effort that went into building Monks Mound: This pharaonic enterprise required carrying 14,666,666 baskets, each filled with 1.5 cubic feet, of dirt weighing about fifty-five pounds each, for a total of 22 million cubic feet. For comparison, an average pickup truck holds 96 cubic feet, so it would take 229,166 pickup loads to bring the dirt to the site. If thirty people each carried eight baskets of earth a day, the job would take 167 years. ...

[The complexity implies] the presence of individuals with specialized knowledge of soils and earthen construction. Despite the instability of the materials they had on hand and the fact that they built their enormous structure on a floodplain, these ancient engineers achieved nothing less than the largest prehistoric construction in the Americas, and there it has stood for more than one thousand years.

 
Woodsman
745167.  Mon Sep 20, 2010 6:21 pm Reply with quote

When in doubt, wipe them out.

http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=2413

 
Woodsman
745173.  Mon Sep 20, 2010 6:45 pm Reply with quote

These Indians piled up dirt sort of like Silbury.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Mississippian_sites

 
Flash
745214.  Tue Sep 21, 2010 4:34 am Reply with quote

I've never heard of Cahokia before. Did it have houses?

 
Jenny
745319.  Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:11 am Reply with quote

The archaeology seems to have focused on the defensive positions and public places, but given that the Wikipedia article says this:
Quote:

At the high point of its development, Cahokia was the largest urban center north of the great Mesoamerican cities in Mexico. Although it was home to only about 1,000 people before ca. 1050, its population grew explosively after that date. Archaeologists estimate the city's population at between 8,000 and 40,000 at its peak, with more people living in outlying farming villages that supplied the main urban center. In 1250, its population was larger than that of London, England.

If the highest population estimates are correct, Cahokia was larger than any subsequent city in the United States until about 1800, when Philadelphia's population grew beyond 40,000.


I think it's safe to assume that there were houses.

There is a website devoted to the site, with an interactive map, but that again seems to focus mainly on the public spaces:

http://cahokiamounds.org/

Further investigation from http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/archaeology/sites/northamerica/cahokia.html reveals:

Quote:
At its peak from 900 to 800 BP, the city covered nearly six square miles and had a population of up to 20,000. Houses were arranged in rows and around open plazas. The main agricultural fields lay outside the city. Cahokia was a planned city with elaborate public buildings and perhaps elite residences at its core. The construction of these features required an organized cooperative labor force as well as organized leadership. Astronomical, mathematical and engineering knowledge also appear to be necessary skills in the planning and construction of the site.

The fate of Cahokia is unknown. Depletion of resources probably contributed to the city's decline. A climate change after 800 BP may have affected crop production and the plant and animal resources needed to sustain a large population. A gradual decline in population began sometime after 800 BP, and by 600 BP the site had been abandoned.


I think it sounds a fascinating place - would love to see it if I ever get a chance.

 
Jenny
745320.  Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:13 am Reply with quote



Artist's rendition from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/1492/1492_cahokia.cfm

 
Jenny
745322.  Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:14 am Reply with quote



Photo of the site.

 
Sadurian Mike
745348.  Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:20 am Reply with quote

Historians were buggers for assuming that early civillisations couldn't build proper buildings, simply because they didn't leave behind recognisable stone or fired-brick remains.

Incidentally, what is "800 BP" in old/real dating?

 
Moosh
745351.  Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:30 am Reply with quote

Sadurian Mike wrote:
Incidentally, what is "800 BP" in old/real dating?

800BP = 1150 AD

BP is "Before Present", but present is apparently 1950.

 
brunel
745352.  Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:41 am Reply with quote

Moosh wrote:
Sadurian Mike wrote:
Incidentally, what is "800 BP" in old/real dating?

800BP = 1150 AD

BP is "Before Present", but present is apparently 1950.

Why 1950? Is it related to the advent of carbon dating?

Still, thanks very much for the links Jenny, because it is a very elaborate and sophisticated development, and I think that it would make for a very interesting topic.

 
Moosh
745354.  Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:54 am Reply with quote

brunel wrote:
Moosh wrote:
Sadurian Mike wrote:
Incidentally, what is "800 BP" in old/real dating?

800BP = 1150 AD

BP is "Before Present", but present is apparently 1950.

Why 1950? Is it related to the advent of carbon dating?

Short answer: yes.

 
thedrew
745603.  Wed Sep 22, 2010 3:26 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
In 1250, its population was larger than that of London, England.


I think this bit is quite interesting. How is it that they didn't end up colonizing Europe?

 
Woodsman
745669.  Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:15 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
How is it that they didn't end up colonizing Europe?


Boats?

Considering that it would have been a bit easier to float, row, paddle, sail eastward, this omission is interesting. The northern hemisphere weather systems move from west to east. The gulf stream moves from southwest to northeast. But the technologies for building seafaring boats simply didn't advance as they did in, for instance, the nordic countries.

Of course, when the "North Americans" arrived in Europe they would have run into guns and germs and it would have been all for naught.

 
Jenny
745803.  Thu Sep 23, 2010 11:40 am Reply with quote

Another interesting Native American/American Indian thing was their extensive use of fire. A book by Charles C. Mann called 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus makes some interesting claims about that.

He writes about a Dutch lawyer called Adriaen van der Donck, who moved to the Hudson River Valley in 1641 and spent time with a tribe called the Haudenosaunee. He described how in the fall they set fire to the 'woods, plains and meadows' to 'thin out and clear the woods of all dead substances and grass, which grow better the ensuing spring.' He writes of how terrifying the fire was at first, but how he and other colonists began to enjoy the spectacle as their boats sailed down the Hudson and Mohawk rivers watching the forest on fire on both banks.

Thomas Morton, an early immigrant, wrote in 1637 of how in the North East Indians always carried a deerskin pouch full of flints, which they used to ignite torches for use in the hunt. Thomas Jefferson wrote of how Native Americans made big rings of flame, 'by firing the leaves fallen on the ground, which, gradually forcing animals to the center, they there slaughter them with arrows, darts, and other missiles.'

Lewis and Clark described how tribes in the Rocky Mountains entertained them during the evening by applying torches to sap-dripping fir trees, which then exploded like Roman candles.

Modern ethnologist Dale Lott wrote how such fires had the greatest impact in the mid-West, where the tribes burned the prairies so often that they established and maintained a giant grassland that was effectively a vast pastureland.

Early explorers such as the surveyor Peter Fidler in 1792, who was the first European to examine the plains of southern Alberta systematically, reported the great burnings, but observed that 'These fires burning off the old grass,' he observed, 'in the ensuing Spring & Summer makes excellent fine sweet feed for the Horses & Buffalo, &c.' Sadly, later travellers often missed the purpose of these fires, and how the Native Americans used them to shape the landscape for their convenience.

More recently, people have begun to realise that forests often need fire to be maintained successfully. However, as long as people keep building homes in the middle of them, as tends to happen, the odds of that technique being applied in the future seem limited.


Source: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
by Charles C. Mann, published by Vintage in 2005

 
Woodsman
747890.  Wed Sep 29, 2010 9:32 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
Modern ethnologist Dale Lott wrote how such fires had the greatest impact in the mid-West, where the tribes burned the prairies so often that they established and maintained a giant grassland that was effectively a vast pastureland.

Early explorers such as the surveyor Peter Fidler in 1792, who was the first European to examine the plains of southern Alberta systematically, reported the great burnings,


These two references should not be linked relative to original pre-fire vegetation.

Much of the high plains stretching from Texas through Alberta probably only supported grassland due to lower overall rainfall. A very large Rocky Mountain rain shadow, combined with drying winds, extends well up into Alberta. The mountains to their west supported trees due to higher seasonal precipitation, found mostly in the form of snowpack.

The lower elevations along the Mississippi Basin (lower Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio Rivers), with higher and more evenly distributed rainfall, may have originally supported a forest. The forest was principally cleared over the relatively flat post-glacial loess soils, extending from Iowa in the west to Ohio in the east, while the forests of the hilly and mountainous Appalachian region remained.

 

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