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Old 06-13-2019, 03:50 AM
 
Location: interior Alaska
4,452 posts, read 3,295,751 times
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As others have pointed out, it really depends on how you define "civilization." In pre-Columbian North America there were complex trade networks, sizable cities, productive agriculture, and organized governments, which is quite civilized by any measure. And I suspect the average person probably would have had a more pleasant life in a 1200 BC Mississippian town than in a similar Aztec or European town of that same time, if that factors at all into what one considers "civilized."

Guns, Germs and Steel is a good readable overview of why some areas were hotbeds of technological development and others weren't. You have to look at factors like geographic distribution of accessible resources, climate, ease of trade (in both ideas and materials), useful easily domesticated flora and fauna, etc.

Empire-building is a major driving force behind the development of certain techs and ideas, and most of North America simply doesn't invite empire-building the way many other parts of the world do. Throughout most of the continent, fresh water and arable land is abundant, and there are few geographic barriers. You seize one territory, and people can just melt away into another that's just about as livable and readily re-establish themselves. Contrast this with the Yucatan, which has no fresh surface water, making control of cenotes crucial, and requiring the construction of serious infrastructure to collect and distribute rainwater, promoting permanent settlements and rigid social organization to construct and maintain that infrastructure. It's factors like this that promoted voluntary confederations in North America versus dictatorial god-kings in Central America.
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Old 06-13-2019, 06:18 AM
 
596 posts, read 158,704 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigCityDreamer View Post
The Aztecs and the Mayas left the remnants of vast empires that existed in what is now Mexico and Central America.

However, there are no pyramids, cities, or signs of any advanced civilization that developed in the United States in pre-Columbian times. Only some pueblos in southwestern states like New Mexico.

Why do you think the Native Americans in the U.S. never developed much beyond the primitive state in spite of living here for many thousands of years?
The presence of buildings and architecture is a typical Western culture bias equating it as a tangible proof of “civilization”.
Looking back and forward into history- I would argue that American Indians have achieved possibly the highest level of civilization and harmony between themselves and with the nature - which we in an allegedly “advanced” stage are now struggling to accomplish and the absence of that harmony could lead to our own extinction eventually.

The Indians were very gentle with their resources and the soil, they had concepts of “feeding” the soil- which we only now beginning to comprehend in a very minor group of population.
The Indians were truly sustainable and organic in their life, culture, health ( I was shocked how gorgeous and healthy all of them looked in the first photos of them available at the Smithsonian- prior to the US “ settling” them on “ reservations”

Their outlook on life, morals, culture, housing, art and “legal” system was harmonious with their lifestyle- there are plenty of artifacts available.
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Old 06-13-2019, 08:01 AM
 
6,242 posts, read 3,534,590 times
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"The presence of buildings and architecture is a typical Western culture bias equating it as a tangible proof of 'civilization'."

I thought this thread was reflecting that. You've worded it well. We are always stuck with that time warp effect when we try to interpret things of the past.

And again - weather. Perhaps no one in the northern US wanted to live in a stone structure in the winter time. In a tropical climate they would be cooler inside; in Illinois they would be freezing cold.
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Old 06-13-2019, 08:44 AM
 
14,692 posts, read 3,903,617 times
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Weather, geography, access to plants and animals of certain types.

I don't think humans sit around thinking "how can we establish this or that?", rather they adapt in various ways to the hands they are dealt.

If you are a Plains Native you were in Fat City with the Buffalo Herds. Your intelligence was used to figure out better ways to use the animal and to kill some of them without being killed yourself.

Same goes with other cultures. It's not much different than what you see in books and newer history...that is, guns-germs-steel or the domestication of animals or the tolerance for lactose and other such things being the Keys to Success.

It took a lot to survive back then. Would you or I rather be the Aztec SLAVES who hauled stones to build the city or the Plains Indian? I think I'd rather be the less civilized in that case!

The use of Slaves was alway crucial to building early civilizations. So, naturally, those who didn't use as many (even Vikings!) didn't build as much fancy stuff...even tho they were smart humans.

Religion was often used as a tool to enslave populations...the layman, who was illiterate and had few options, had to go along with whatever society he or she was born into.

Things didn't really start to change much until Martin Luther and the Printing Press.
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Old 06-14-2019, 10:46 PM
 
3,684 posts, read 1,782,963 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nik4me View Post
The presence of buildings and architecture is a typical Western culture bias equating it as a tangible proof of “civilization”.
Looking back and forward into history- I would argue that American Indians have achieved possibly the highest level of civilization and harmony between themselves and with the nature - which we in an allegedly “advanced” stage are now struggling to accomplish and the absence of that harmony could lead to our own extinction eventually.

The Indians were very gentle with their resources and the soil, they had concepts of “feeding” the soil- which we only now beginning to comprehend in a very minor group of population.
The Indians were truly sustainable and organic in their life, culture, health ( I was shocked how gorgeous and healthy all of them looked in the first photos of them available at the Smithsonian- prior to the US “ settling” them on “ reservations”

Their outlook on life, morals, culture, housing, art and “legal” system was harmonious with their lifestyle- there are plenty of artifacts available.
Is this a serious post?

Here are some other things that went on regularly PRIOR to the European invasion...

Warfare for every reason imaginable
Genocide
Kidnapping
Slavery
Human sacrifice/torture/murder
Repeated burn offs to the point of devastation
Buffalo jumps that left untold amounts of buffalo to rot

Etc etc

I'm not judging with my post. There is good and bad within every civilization. No need to paint some one sided essentially false narrative to be viewed only through rose colored glasses.

Only with natives (who aren't native) is every shortcoming or failure twisted until it becomes a display of intelligence, or organic harmony, or some other nonsense.

If they used every part of an animal then why are there piles of buffalo bones to this day at the bottom of buffalo jumps?

Answer: take your pick. Gifts to the Moon God, the calcium enriches the soil blah blah. Or maybe, because they lacked technology, too many buffalo were herded and stampeded off the cliff. They could only take what they could take and they could only use what they could use.

You think they would make foolish and possibly life risking mistakes by making sure to harvest every ounce of animal before them because our 5th grade teacher Mrs. Smith told us so? Mrs. Smith couldn't even wear matching socks most days of the week. If they needed about 50 buffalo and 900 stampeded off the cliff then 850 went to waste and were killed for nothing more than ignorance.

Indians were human animals just like all of us. I agree with the western cultural bias statement.
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Old 06-14-2019, 11:53 PM
 
Location: New Mexico
6,463 posts, read 3,611,213 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quietude View Post
Which is why almost nothing remains of Cahokia except a few indistinct mounds...
Actually there is quite a lot that remains from Cahokia and the more they look the more they find. The indigenous pre-Columbus cultures were very complex. These people were not living willy-nilly without any sense of purpose or connection to tradition or customs. Both the Chaco culture Great Houses in the SW and Cahokia along the Mississippi are planned and laid out to correspond with solar and lunar seasonal events. Although Cahokia was abandoned, vestiges of the Mississippian culture and life ways still continued among some Southeastern tribes at the time Europeans arrived. One example would be the Natchez people in Mississippi.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2...ericans-vanish
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Old 06-15-2019, 06:10 AM
 
Location: Pennsylvania
5,526 posts, read 9,914,738 times
Reputation: 9042
Quote:
Originally Posted by SunGrins View Post
Actually there is quite a lot that remains from Cahokia and the more they look the more they find.
Right - some of the great finds of the central Americas have been in remote locations, where in the borders of the US, much of the land was occupied and cultivated by people over the last couple of hundred years who didn't worry about preserving areas of archeological significance. The evidence of ancient cultures is much better hidden in the US, and there is plenty of ancient culture that has been erased from Central America - we just don't know about them.
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Old 06-15-2019, 06:14 AM
 
Location: Texas
43,453 posts, read 52,470,772 times
Reputation: 70528
Nomads are unlikely to leave remains of giant cities.
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Old 06-15-2019, 08:41 AM
 
Location: interior Alaska
4,452 posts, read 3,295,751 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stan4 View Post
Nomads are unlikely to leave remains of giant cities.
Which nomads are you referring to?

There were many cities and towns in pre-Columbian North America. They were just constructed of destructible materials in climates that promote decomposition. After the plagues swept across the continent, nature reclaimed most of the land. How long do you suppose it takes an abandoned wooden building to decompose in, say, Missouri? Not much longer than it takes for the forest to overgrow abandoned fields that had been cleared for farming, sure.

In areas where the climate and land weren't conducive to supporting sizeable year-round populations, people tended to cycle through seasonal established settlements rather than truly roaming. I live in a ridiculously uninhabitable part of the continent and even near here archaeologists are busy digging up the remnants of a pre-colonization village.

Last edited by Frostnip; 06-15-2019 at 08:59 AM..
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Old 06-15-2019, 10:12 AM
 
Location: Aurora Denveralis
8,206 posts, read 2,869,843 times
Reputation: 12266
Quote:
Originally Posted by SunGrins View Post
Actually there is quite a lot that remains from Cahokia and the more they look the more they find.
Yes, if they no where to dig. But there's nothing like the structures and undisturbed village/temple areas of the Yucatan or the southwest. Which was more or less the point; what's noticeable and has been over the last 300 years is... mounds. As so many posts in this thread confirm, it makes it easy to dismiss these northern tribes as some kind of nomads with no "civilization."
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