We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Monday, October 8. 2012
I have just finished reading 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. I highly recommend it, and may post some paragraphs from it over the next months to entice our readers.
Among many other wonderful details, the book undermines the notions that the Europeans arrived to find a primeval land on which the Indians left hardly a footprint. Quite the opposite is true. For example, the Northeast Indians had 100-acre cornfields, scattered wherever the soil was rich, and did massive burnings of their woodlands every year to rewind forest succession, for game management, and to clear the underbush. They viewed the woods as their gardens and farms, and when they made fields, they cleared them to the point of removing the stumps. No slash-and-burn: permanent farm fields that were hard-won with stone axes and fire. The Pilgrims took advantage of their abandoned fields in Massachusetts.
Similarly, the Amazonian Indians turned the rain forest into their own orchards. At least 20% of the Amazonian forest is believed to be dominated by fruit- and nut-bearing trees planted by Indians for their use. That's not to mention their manioc plantations. And the South American Indians, like the Meso-Americans, developed massive irrigation systems to support their populations.
There was little of the New World that had not been shaped by Indian activities, except for the mountains and deserts - and the Incas populated the Andes quite successfully.
I also liked learning about the Indian prophet Deganawida, the Northeast "Peacemaker" born, it was said, of a virgin birth. Hiawatha, the great Indian orator and politician, was one of his followers. Some of those folks are some of my ancestors.
Finally, the book got me interested in Cahokia, the largest Indian city north of Mexico with a top population of 15-20,000 farmers. The mound-building city in Illinois was abandoned 300 years before Columbus. Image on right is what Cahokia's mounds looked like.
(For a variety of reasons, many mysterious, the New World experienced enormous population declines from their millions before Columbus, making
Here's the Cahokia Website.
This Italian (Genoa) adventurer in the employ of Spain didn't discover the New World but, with the help of people like Vespucci, he sure did help put it on the map. That is one heck of a world-changing achievement. New Spain! The Moriso
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I love this book. I listened to it in audio form (unabridged) and find myself returning to it often. It's makes me sad to think of all the social capital and knowledge that mankind lost in the great die out. (it also serves as a warning to us what fate can bring).
As for Cahokia. You can see the great Mound from I-55. I look for it every time my fiance and I drive to St. Louis (from Chicago) to visit her family.
Yes, you can see it from the highway. I've been there. Angel Mounds is pretty impressive, too.
But if you want really impressive, go see Teotihuacan.
I really want to go see Teotihuacan. I have seen Chitzen Itza in Cancun.
A couple years ago I went to an exibit at the Chicago Museum of Art of Mississippian artifacts. A couple of items, particularly some statues, made it pretty clear to me that Mississippian culture had direct links to Meso-American Inidan culture. Just to be sure I dragged my girlfriend to the Meso-American part of the museum to see some clay statues from south Mexico that were the spitting image of the ones we saw that had been dug up in Alabama. It was amazing.
Yes - this is an excellent book that is required reading in my Colonial American History class. I never surprised to have several students who tell me after reading it that this wasn't what they learned in HS or with previous professors (usually professors teaching anything BUT history).
Good call, BD.
It is a great book, no question, with many important new perspectives on the pre-Columbian Americas. A few things to consider, however. Mann is not an archeologist or anthropologist- he is a journalist (albeit a very knowledgeable one, to be sure). While Mann's ideas may turn out to be correct, many in the professional field do not agree with him, or feel his evidence is not convincing. He gives a lot of weight to statements made by "radical" Indians, who have an axe to grind, but not much science behind their beliefs. He seems especially fond of that phony "Indian" Ward Churchill, whom he cites repeatedly.
That being said, the professional field is full of people protecting their turf, with all the backbiting and shunning that goes with it. Many professionals in the field have invested their lives in a certain point of view, and if they abandon that view, they are, in effect, admitting their professional lives were devoted to error and were a waste of time.
I'm glad Mr. Mann wrote the book. He cites plenty of contemporaneous accounts that indicate Indian society was much more complex and advanced than what I was taught in the history books. The conquerors certainly had a vested interest in portraying the land as substantially empty.
I am all for the truth coming out, and letting the chips fall where they may.
A couple more remarks-
One of my favorite things in the book is Mann's debunking of the idea of Indians living in harmony with the natural world. If Mann is correct, they altered the "natural world" considerably to suit their own needs.
I love Yosemite National Park. The Indians who lived there prior to the coming of the white man regularly burned Yosemite valley to remove trees and brush, encouraging more of the animals and plants that they wanted there. Pictures of Yosemite Valley from the 1800s show considerably less forestation and many more meadows than what exists now. Now, there are so many more trees, growing taller every year, that much of the scenery of the valley is blocked out by the vegetation. I wish they would burn the whole dang valley to clear out the brush and clutter. The Indians had the right idea.
The other thing is, and I can remember the name of the scientist who said this, the paradigm doesn't really change until the old scientists die off and are replaced by younger scientists who don't have a vested interest in the way things are now.
The scientist was Max Planck. I use that quote in presentations often.
1491 and 1493 are both excellent. I share Daedalaus Mugged's theory: epidemic disease is the only known vector for that kind of die-off.
Mann's point about the falsity of the Indian's harmony-with-nature ethos is a good one. They exploited their environment skillfully, as all surviving peoples do. It is to their credit, not any shame.
"The conquerors certainly had a vested interest in portraying the land as substantially empty. "
How humbling that statement is. How maddening as well.
Thanks for the tip, BD. I love this stuff and will get the book next trip to the library.
Howard Zinn says that there were billions of Indians living happily in the New World and Columbus and his crew raped and killed them for fun and gold. He wouldn't be exagerating or lying, would he?
There were millions for sure. Happily? Doubt they had that concept. The big die-off? It's a mystery. The Mayans and the Cahokians disappeared long before Europeans appeared.
Did the Spanish kill them for their gold and silver? You bet they did. But Zinn should get it right: it was immigration - not invasion....right?
"The big die-off? It's a mystery."
It is, but that won't stop me from zero fact speculation. It is clear that the die off preceded Columbus, and by a significant period. Given the two continental scale, I think it was likely biologic rather than environmental. If it had been environmental, it would have been more geographically centered, rather than wacking the residents of North, Central and South America, from coast to plains to mountain to jungle.
Here comes the fact free speculation....the great die off is evidence (not proof, evidence) of pre-Columbian contact between the North and South Americans and the Eurasians. There is a suggestion of Viking, Irish and Basque contact preceding Columbus, but it is murky enough to not be datable. There is good evidence of English contact preceeding Columbus, but not far enough back to be the cause of the big die off. But the English were apparently following in Basque/Irish footsteps. The other possibility was that it was contact on the Pacific side, whether long distance ocean going (Chinese/Polynesian) or short distance arctic contact.
My hyposthesis, after 6-10k years of population isolation, the Americans came into contact with human disease evolved in Eurasia and it was devastating. We saw an example of this with later European contact, which caused its own secondary die off, for non-coastal dwellers, usually preceding first contact with Europeans. The first French explorers found entire Iroquois villages abandoned, most likely because of a disease driven die off, before first Iroquois contact with Europeans. Apparently the disease vector was European -> Coastal Indians -> Inland Indians, with the disease beating the europeans inland.
No facts, but an interesting (to me) hypothesis.
I started using a research jobs site called InformationTechnologyCrossing that I do not think anyone knows about because it is run by a small company that does not advertise. All InformationTechnologyCrossing does is show you jobs from other job boards and employer websites-basically every IT job out there. In my opinion, this is something worth checking out. Some of the listings had already been filled that I applied to but I still think it is a valuable resource. I like the fact that not a lot of people in IT are not using this.
I ' m back from my holidays and i have some different views for these markets.
Many things happened during the last 3 weeks. I see that many of the issues that threatened markets are starting to go away. - oil prices reversed from 160 Usd to 110usd, giving some relief to consumers and producers worldwide; - us housing prices are expected to consolidate in a month or two; - eur/usd is getting closer to the purchase power parity.-Chinese economy is still strong and buying from several markets (including Japan!) . gold reversed to values below 800; What should one see in this picture? In my view, there are a lot of conclusions and investment decisions one can take looking to this scenario.
1. Invest USD in stocks related to American consumer: with lower gas prices and a historical low interest rate consumers will get more money to spend. The end of the housing prices free fall will be the trigger. Markets will only price this in the year end, but you should invest right now. Avoid stocks related to housing and financials as these will recovery slowly.
2. Run away from us exporters, but do not get short on it. World demand will still be strong. The same for energy stocks. I'm still expecting sustained oil prices in the next couple of years, now probably with a stronger us dollar and with nominal prices lower.
3. From the previous Iím still bullish in Canadian stocks and CAD, namely against euro and pound. Concentrate on sectors that will not suffer from the Dutch disease.
4. China and brazil will remain strong due to internal markets dynamics. Internal demand will boost imports and then helping to increase demand from external countries.
5. Euro zone and Japanese exporters will be among those who will benefit from the forex movements and an strong world demand. Investment in these companies in local currencies shall give you na extra return. If you are not na euro zone investor do not forget to cover your euro exposure.
6. I expect interest rates to increase in us, remain unchanged in euro zone and decrease in uk, due to different stages on the housing crises. I would be in position to get short on fotsie in pounds during the next 6 months because i expect retailers and financials to suffer even more.
7. I will repeat myself, but i'm really optimistic on the Japanese market. The increased demand coming from china may be exactly what this market needs to get in position.
These are my views. I hope that yours are different from mine. I expect to hear your views from your right now. Please send me any comment you wish.
What do you think of it?
"Seven Oceans Investments Club"
rh: We have to stop meeting on these bizarre sites. Response to your ? No tax incentives. Marlboros were "roll-yer-owns" and nobody could figure out how to slip beads into those slots.
(Cahokia is very interesting.)
Whenever I hear that natives-at-one-with-nature line I feel nauseous. Rousseau and other pests of his ilk have a lot to answer for, in my view.
The natives were "at one with nature" simply because they lacked the technology to be otherwise (rather like Europeans in earlier days). The archaeological evidence suggests that, given the opportunity, natives could be just as rapacious as anybody else.
And that is how I prefer to see them: just as venial - or as noble - as the rest of mankind. In other words, real human beings who believed they were doing the best they could under the circumstances.
One of my favorite books and one that I've re-read a couple of times and recommended to my friends. The concept that the Native Americans lived lightly on the land without making any changes to it just doesn't hold up. They modified the hell of of it to the extent of the tools they had. And the great slaughter of Indians was more due to the extent of exposure to foreign bacteria than foreign steel.
Weary of hearing Plains Indians used all parts of a buffalo, threw away nothing, I wondered why modern meat processors don't get the same props. Great book.
Agree with all that it's an excellent book that refutes much of what is considered to be accepted wisdom...would also highly recommend its "sequel" - 1493...reading that one made me understand that "globalization" has been around a lot longer than one might think.
European immigration, post-Columbus, was the best thing that happened to the natives!
The Europeans eventually proved to be the only force preventing various native tribes from committing genocide upon each other. Why? Each tribe considered only themselves as "human beings."(You can look it up. In virtually every native tongue, a tribe's name for itself translated as "the human beings" or 'the people." )
Other tribes were therefore considered less than human, thus subject to eradication, after the best of conquered survivors were relegated to slavery by the victors!
Real nice bunch o' folks, each and every tribe.
Add this one to your list, http://stevenpinker.com/publications/better-angels-our-nature
Great look at how violence has declined since tribal times.
He did a TED lecture on this also, http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence.html
Keep in mind that European contact with the New World really began in 1007 with Lief Ericson's voyage, and continued up to 1492 with the English/Breton/Basque fishing villages in Newfoundland in the 1400s. This a period when various diseases, from the Black Death to Typhus - ran rampant through Europe, up to and including Scandinavia. I think it possible European diseases arrived in the New World will before the Spanish arrived, and that the pre-columbian demographic crashes can be traced to them.