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Old 01-10-2010, 07:28 AM
 
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How advanced where the Mississipian Cultures of the MidWest before the White Man came? I read that Cahokia in Illionois was a huge village/city of 50,000 people. Does this make it as advanced technilogically, socially and politically as the Aztecs of Incas? My assumption is that they were not what historians usually consider "civilization." However, do we know that for sure?
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Old 01-11-2010, 09:35 AM
 
Location: Oxford, England
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I think it is always rather dodgy to qualify and "compare" who is more "civilised"/"Advanced" than who. I speak as a social Anthropologist/Archaeologist.

Mississippian Archaeology is absolutely fascinating and the mound buildings societies found in the Mississippi and Tennessee valleys are complex in many respects. There is a clear hierarchic system with inequality at its base ( we call that "civilised" for some reason as opposed to more equalitarian smaller tribal societies ) , their system of urbanisation is quite developed, agriculture ( with Maize at its centre ) is also a prominent feature . Their pottery/ceramics is extremely sophisticated using riverine / sometimes marine shell tempering agents.

Their system of trade is extremely wide geographically from the Rockies to the Gulf of Mexico , a two way well organised developed network of commerce links all over most of the continent.

The Mound cities are themselves dominant over smaller settlements and smaller conurbations indicating a power centre of great importance.

Religion is represented by the use of ceremonial centres and religious rituals as well as the practice of games such as chunkey . In many respects Native American societies are quite like their more famous cousins in Central and South-America.

Simply because a civilisation does not smelt metal or have a writing system , does not make it somehow inferior or less developed. Simply different. The Incas as is acknowledged were incredibly advanced but did not even have the wheel... Which for many people is incomprehensible.

Native American societies from the more nomadic Tribes of the Western Plains to the more settled ones of the Mississippi , South-West are rich, and culturally complex and varied.

It is shocking that in many respects most Americans nowadays are completely oblivious to the absolute wealth of culture which preceded colonisations. Archaeology in North America is rich and complex and an absolute joy of treasures mostly unappreciated.

I have met so many Americans who lived near such Ancient sites as Cahokia and had never even visited it, in fact one local chap actually called me a liar when I told him Native Americans used to have huge cities, with complex societies and complex urbanisation. History books have not been kind to the "losers" in the power struggle between White settlers and Native Americans.

Societies are complex on many different levels, and one can not "measure" civilisation by the yard-stick of popular culture.
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Old 01-11-2010, 11:11 AM
 
Location: Sinking in the Great Salt Lake
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I wouldn't be surprised to find out the Hopewell culture was just as advanced technologically as the other Mesoamerican civilizations.

They just didn't build with rock and the environment is not conducive to the preservation of organic artifacts, so there isn't a whole lot left.
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Old 01-11-2010, 11:13 AM
 
Location: Oxford, England
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chango View Post
I wouldn't be surprised to find out the Hopewell culture was just as advanced technologically as the other Mesoamerican civilizations.

They just didn't build with rock and the environment is not conducive to the preservation of organic artifacts, so there isn't a whole lot left.
Exactly.
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Old 01-11-2010, 11:34 AM
 
Location: San Antonio
10,154 posts, read 18,135,384 times
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Originally Posted by Mooseketeer View Post
Simply because a civilisation does not smelt metal or have a writing system , does not make it somehow inferior or less developed.

It doesn't make it inferior but it does make it less developed. I know that people in your line of work have to be careful to not put value judgements on things but the word developed does have a meaning afterall.

What do you think of the notion as expressed in the book "1491" that prior to the European invasion of the New World there were vast numbers of Indians living in more complex societies than is generally thought? For instance the difference in what DeSoto saw along the Mississippi compared with what Marquette and LaSalle saw there a hundred years later.
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Old 01-11-2010, 01:09 PM
 
Location: Oxford, England
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishtom29 View Post
It doesn't make it inferior but it does make it less developed. I know that people in your line of work have to be careful to not put value judgements on things but the word developed does have a meaning afterall.

What do you think of the notion as expressed in the book "1491" that prior to the European invasion of the New World there were vast numbers of Indians living in more complex societies than is generally thought? For instance the difference in what DeSoto saw along the Mississippi compared with what Marquette and LaSalle saw there a hundred years later.
Development is quite a loaded subject really as we all put different values on different things. For example I find Prehistoric cultures which gave us the wondrous beauty of Painted Caves like Fond de Gaume, Alta-Mira or Pech-Merle , portable art and finely designed silex tools and hand-axes highly developed in many ways though our current society looks at them as little more than bipedal animals.

It is too easy to put a judgement value on things simply because they do not resonate with us culturally but I think the bigger picture is a tad more complex.

As for Native American societies and their "decline" the issue will for the most part be a complex mixture of environmental factors ( man-made and natural) , political and socio-cultural events etc... as all other societies following a cyclical pattern of rise and fall , the apogee often heralding a catastrophic fall . All civilisation means in its original term is an urbanised society. Development to me means many different things, in many different ways.



We in the West have often considered ourselves the most developed and civilised of societies and yet our development is such that it is also the harbinger of destruction brought upon us by this very "superiority" we lay claim to.

We are biting the hand which feeds us ( the Planet) and after a relatively quick ascension to technological supremacy and industrialisation in the last couple of centuries have also managed to destroy a large part of humanity with very civilised concepts of multi-national corporate greed ( present for Millenia in all "civilised" societies under different guises of trade and slavery , imperial expansionism etc... but never quite so successful in the all encompassing destruction wreaked upon the world by the Western World) . So I would argue that development is in the eye of the beholder as a qualitative concept and maybe not all it's cracked up to be.



Some of the most "evolved" and "developed" people I have met have in many ways been tribal people with little to no technology and no concept of urbanisation because of their utterly perfect adaptation to their environment which in many ways to me means being a great success. Developing as a human being comes under many shapes and sizes. Not always meaning towns, cities, the wheel, metallurgy, etc...

All social structures must be studied not from a narrow point of view tainted by our own cultural yard-stick but with a wider understanding of what humanity in all its forms encompasses.
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Old 01-11-2010, 03:10 PM
 
1,308 posts, read 2,468,688 times
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Wheels were of limited value to the Incas given where they lived. Or in any case of less value than on flat terrain. The fasinating question to me is why civilizations made signficant gains, such as say the Mayans or medevial Islam, and then largely stoped or declined. Or why civilizations such as China which invented a broad range of technologies such as gunpowder never used them effectively as the Europeans.
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Old 01-13-2010, 06:02 PM
Status: "Even better than okay" (set 10 days ago)
 
Location: Coastal New Jersey
51,287 posts, read 50,539,435 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mooseketeer View Post
I think it is always rather dodgy to qualify and "compare" who is more "civilised"/"Advanced" than who. I speak as a social Anthropologist/Archaeologist.

Mississippian Archaeology is absolutely fascinating and the mound buildings societies found in the Mississippi and Tennessee valleys are complex in many respects. There is a clear hierarchic system with inequality at its base ( we call that "civilised" for some reason as opposed to more equalitarian smaller tribal societies ) , their system of urbanisation is quite developed, agriculture ( with Maize at its centre ) is also a prominent feature . Their pottery/ceramics is extremely sophisticated using riverine / sometimes marine shell tempering agents.

Their system of trade is extremely wide geographically from the Rockies to the Gulf of Mexico , a two way well organised developed network of commerce links all over most of the continent.

The Mound cities are themselves dominant over smaller settlements and smaller conurbations indicating a power centre of great importance.

Religion is represented by the use of ceremonial centres and religious rituals as well as the practice of games such as chunkey . In many respects Native American societies are quite like their more famous cousins in Central and South-America.

Simply because a civilisation does not smelt metal or have a writing system , does not make it somehow inferior or less developed. Simply different. The Incas as is acknowledged were incredibly advanced but did not even have the wheel... Which for many people is incomprehensible.

Native American societies from the more nomadic Tribes of the Western Plains to the more settled ones of the Mississippi , South-West are rich, and culturally complex and varied.

It is shocking that in many respects most Americans nowadays are completely oblivious to the absolute wealth of culture which preceded colonisations. Archaeology in North America is rich and complex and an absolute joy of treasures mostly unappreciated.

I have met so many Americans who lived near such Ancient sites as Cahokia and had never even visited it, in fact one local chap actually called me a liar when I told him Native Americans used to have huge cities, with complex societies and complex urbanisation. History books have not been kind to the "losers" in the power struggle between White settlers and Native Americans.

Societies are complex on many different levels, and one can not "measure" civilisation by the yard-stick of popular culture.
Great post. Regarding the wheel...some pre-Columbian cultures did have the wheel but used it only when making toys. One of the reasons they didn't use the wheel was because they didn't use draft animals.

If you haven't yet read it, I recommend the book 1491. It covers knowledge of the indigenous cultures of both North and South America that isn't commonly known outside academic circles. I found it fascinating.

http://www.amazon.com/1491-Revelatio.../dp/140004006X
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Old 01-13-2010, 08:00 PM
 
1,308 posts, read 2,468,688 times
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Quote:
Simply because a civilisation does not smelt metal or have a writing system , does not make it somehow inferior or less developed.
No, but it does make it far more likely they will get the crap beaten out of them by societies that do have metalurgy and writing, and use gunpowder and horses for that matter. And winners tend to destroy the civilization of those that lose, and to write the histories.
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Old 01-13-2010, 08:07 PM
 
Location: Somewhere in the universe
2,161 posts, read 3,873,452 times
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I find some civilizations of the Americas very advanced/civilized. It bothers me when people say that they cannot respect their culture because they were nomadic and how the Meso-Americans practiced sacrificing while the Europeans moved on from that. I could delve a whole lot on that one, but it would be take up much of my time lol. So in all, I do feel that these cultures where more advanced than we may think, that includes Mississippian.
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