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  • File Size: 3572 KB
  • Print Length: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 2nd edition (October 10, 2006)
  • Publication Date: October 10, 2006
  • Language: English

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I have already been a volunteer at Cahokia Mounds for about 3 years, leading guided trips of the Historic site. I have read thoroughly about Cahokia's history, joined a few conferences and had access to several of the principal archeologists at the site. I consider myself fairly well educated.

Several visitors at Cahokia, and a few of my friends, recommended that I read 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, written in 2005, by Charles C. Mann.

Mr. Mann relies heavily on the work of Doctor William I. Woods, a geography professor at University of Kansas. I have found a book Envisioning Cahokia: a Landscape Perspective, co-authored by Dr. Woods. Not a simple read, but I feel currently tackling it to see if I will learn more.

I have recently finished 1491 (Vintage Textbooks, second edition, July 2011) and I have a few observations. Some of the things the author says as "facts" about Cahokia are speculation. Some of the things he says are plainly incorrect.

This specific makes me question the rest of the guide.

The best known landmark at Cahokia is Monks Mound. Standing 100 feet high, with four balconies and a base of 14 acres, Monks Pile is the largest earthen structure in the Americas.

Mr. Mann tells all of us that "the elite renewed Monks Mound. By increasing a minimal platform from one side, they created a stage for priests to perform ceremonies in full view of the general public. " (pg303)

The first terrace of Monks Pile is a late addition and it very well could have been used as a stage to tackle large gatherings in the forty acre Grand Ciudad. I mention this in my tours, but point out that it is speculation. Beyond the evident acoustics in the Great Plaza (some archeologist have noted that, in the early mornings, it is sometimes possible to plainly hear the voices of folks ascending the mound) there isn't a whole lot of proof to back up the theory.

The author tells us that one of the contributing factors to the demise of Cahokia was the curve of Cahokia Creek. This specific provided additional water to metropolis and allowed logs to be floated downstream, but also caused flooding which destroyed the maize crop. This may well be true, but I have found no other sources that mention this diversion of Cahokia Creek. Most accounts of Cahokia's demise refer to an extended drought and, perhaps, a shortened growing season.

Mound 72, in my opinion, is among the most interesting mound at Cahokia. Excavations in the late 1960s by Dr. Melvin Fowler revealed about 300 burial. One of the most spectacular was "the beaded burial" an earlier chief buried on a falcon shaped blanket of 20, 000 sea shell beads from the gulf of Mexico. Archeologists calculate that 60% of the burials at mound seventy two were ritual killings.

Speaking of these Mr. Mann says "Among them were fifty young women who experienced been buried alive. inch (pg 298)
He may be puzzling two or more separate burials.

Right now there were about 100 young women who were likely garroted before their body were laid out in trenches in neat series. I am not aware of any evidence that these victims were buried alive.
On another occasion, 50 individuals, men and women, were executed, mainly clubbed to death, and haphazardly tossed into a pit. There is evidence that some of these people were still alive when the pit was filled.

Sometime around 1150, the people at Cahokia constructed a palisade. Clearly a defensive structure, we do not know who the 2 distance long fence was meant to keep out.

Mr. Mann tells us that the palisade "was also meant to welcome the citizenry - anyone could freely move across its dozen or so wide gates. inch (pg 303)
Actually, the "gates" into the palisade were thin, L shaped entryways, situated between bastions, where archers easily could postpone unwanted intruders.

We are informed "A catastrophic earthquake razed Cahokia in the starting of the thirteenth century, knocking down the entire european side of Monks Pile. " (pg 303)
I have a couple of problems with this assertion.

The first relates to the second terrace of Monks Mound. The official books at the Interpretative Centre states that Monks Pile had four terraces. Some researchers, including Dr . Forest believes that what we should now call the second terrace was the result of a massive slumpage along the western side of the mound. They may be correct, but this is still available to debate.

If Dr. Woods is correct, might the second terrace of Monks Pile become the result of an earthquake? Perhaps.

In 1811/1812, quakes across the New This town fault in southern Missouri caused the Mississippi Lake to run backwards and rang church bells in New York and Birkenstock boston. Archeologists do speculate whether earthquakes had anything to do with the desertion of Cahokia. The problem has to do with timing.

This summer I attended a Mississippian meeting at Cahokia. One of the presentations dealt with this topic. There is evidence that there was a major quake across the Brand new Madrid fault around 1450. Unfortunately this reaches the very least 200 years in its final stages to fit into Mr. Mann's narrative.

"The Cahokia earthquake.. must have splintered many of the city's wood-and plaster buildings; fallen torches and scattered cooking fires would have ignited the debris, burning down most surviving structures. Water from the rivers, shaken by the quake, would have sloshed into the land in a mini-tsunami.... At the same time the social unrest turned violent; many homes went up in flames. There is civil war,... fighting in the streets. The whole polity turned in on itself and tore itself apart. " (pg 304)

When this scenario played out, one would expect sufficient archeological evidence. Whether it is available, I have missed it.

Finally, there are two statements in 1491 I find particularly strange.

"Monks Mound opens into a plaza a thousand feet long. In it freebie southwest corner is a set of mounds, one cone-shaped, one square. One day I climbed up their grassy sides at sun. " (pg 289)

A person are not in order to climb on any of the mounds except Monks Pile. There are signs posted all through the internet site. Perhaps the author had special.

"A friend and I first visited Cahokia in 2002... The site is now a state park with a little museum. " (pg 302)

Has Mr. Mann ever before actually visited Cahokia? The Historic Site ceased being a state park in 1977. The "small museum" was replaced in 1989 by a 33, 000 ft interpretative center that receives hundreds of hundreds of visitors each 12 months., This work was excellent except for there being too many details--involved minor details that shows scholarship, but kind of bogs the reader down. It was disappointing that mcdougal said nothing about those amazingly engineered, massive blocks of stone at Puma Punku, in Bolivia. (Some people have the silly theory they were made by alien visitors. ) Also, I think he invested too much time after 1491 in North The usa. Nevertheless, with a these exceptions, I would suggest this guide as an interesting, highly informative read., This guide is fascinating and academic. Everyone ought to know about the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Among my favorite things is that it gives multiple theories to answer questions and let us the reader considercarefully what the answer might be. I not only learned about the Americas but how to take into consideration theories about background., It is really an interesting book with much information which is new to me. However, the author has a point to make which he makes continually. By the halfway point I was getting tired of his constantly pounding ecologists, since I purchased the book mainly to understand the pre-Columbian ecology., For me, " 1491" is the second of two significant shifts in history not presented in my generation of schooling experience (New York), or available to those of us with a passion for " what really happened? " My first revelation arrived with: " Guns, Bacteria, and Steel, " by Jared Diamond. If keeping a library, they should be located next to each other. As far as rating the book, I thought it could have been edited a lttle bit tighter in certain of the extended narrative examples. Having said that, readers should be prepared, it is lengthy, but worth it., Really insightful and interesting read! I suspect there is a lttle bit of subjectivity because of to a biased author, but the historical referrals and research was very enlightening and even surprising. Definitely worth a read for anybody considering paleo- and pre-Columbian American history!, Since a retired nurse, I consider myself an arm chair anthropologist, archeologist, and scientist. This guide was right up my alley! Mann blended all three fields of study as he deftly waded through abundant research to give each understanding of pre-Columbian America. I'm excited to read his other books!, It is excellent -- I haven't finished it yet, but will. It is very useful and I love reading about things and how they were in that time frame.

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1491 Second Revelations Americas Columbus
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