|A cup of tea and beauty to think by...|
This past weekend I fed my love of history, archaeology, and people. I did quite a bit of comparisons between the peoples of the 1300-1500’s in the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas. Amazing stuff. Attitudes toward each other and who was superior was astonishing in similarities. The Middle Eastern people looked at the Europeans and savages and uneducated in comparison with their advancements in hygiene and medical practices.
I’m also amused by Europeans view of the Americas as a vast wilderness largely uninhabited and what inhabitants they did encounter were considered savage barbarians. Heathens. Little more evolved than animals compared to the great advancements the Europeans felt they had.
|Casqui Parkin Site (artist depiction)|
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. North America was far from empty and it’s people far from savages. To give some context in population, England in the 1400’s was about 2 ½ million and topped over 3 million in the 1500’s. The population of Europe was more than 70 million during that time period. Substantial numbers in what was seen as the ‘civilized world’. Now, let’s look at North America during the same time period—between 2 million and 18 million. Not exactly uninhabited and that’s just North America. If you add South America, the numbers jump to about 100 million.
|Artist depiction of Moundville at it's peak about 800 years ago, and built on high terraces and mounds to keep them safe from flooding.|
The idea of uneducated savages also comes into question when you look at the homes, cities, written languages, and military power (consider that the Native American armies in southeastern US was able to defeat the military might of Spain’s warriors under De Soto).
When you look at the political structures, and the religious and medical practices, the people of the Americas were anything but uneducated. Political systems were in place under kings, chieftains and sub-rulers, a body of those who set rules—in some clans/tribes were nations with the equivalent of parliament/congress. These people had their religious temples, educational centers, and their palaces; huge cites that would rival many cities in Europe. They performed surgeries unknown in most of Europe but the Middle East would have understood and applauded. At a time when waste products were being tossed out of the windows in London or Paris to the streets below, when bathing and cleanliness was almost unheard of (another reason Middle East look down on European society) people in the Americas had waste systems, bathing was the norm, drinking water was kept separate and clean. There were sophisticated food storage systems. To give you an idea of how urbane food storage was, in De Soto’s time, he raided an Apalachee town and carried away enough food to feed over 600 men and their horses for over 6 months.
Education was also in place, knowledge of mathematics, knowledge of the stars and their movements were commonplace in parts of the Americas.
I’m not discounting less highly developed tribes, warrior societies, or city-states in either place, but this idea that those native to the Americas were savages, that this continent was empty or up for grabs because of it, is laughable.
Picture credits: Wikipedia, The Daily Kos, and Moundville Archaeological Museum