Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Archaeological preconceptions

Amazon Books sends e-mail ads to about all it can, and I recently got one listing a book about Cahokia and Amerind mound builders. I noted mention of a community of 20,000, then deleted the ad. Later, I got to thinking about this supposed large community settlement, an anomaly among millions of Amerinds across over ten million square miles of territory. Yes, there were Pueblo peoples – from a very different climatic zone, far away, and a very large permanent assemblage of Aztecs where Mexico City is today. There likely were large communities of Caribs (and others living by the Caribbean and gulf of Mexico), of whom there may have been tens of millions alive for over half a millennium, surely with some awareness of, if not contact with, Mississippian Culture and others of that great river. 20,000 doesn’t amaze me, and I suspect that at times there were assemblages of considerably more.
Of the “Macro-Algonquian linguistic phylum that inhabited the east side of the lower Mississippi River”, who may have had villages with structures three stories tall, Britannica says, “The Natchez, allied in general culture to other Muskogean tribes, were a primarily agricultural people. They made clothes by weaving a fabric from the inner bark of the mulberry, excelled in potteryขmaking, and built large temples—similar to those of the Creeks—of wattles and mud set upon eight-foot mounds. Their dwellings—built in precise rows around a plaza or common ground—were four-sided and constructed of sun-baked mud and straw with arched cane roofs.”
Fine, as far as it goes, I suppose. But I can’t help thinking of the Steppe People, from Hungary to the Altai Mountains, including Scythians and Khazars, who built cities, sometimes, but didn’t stay in them during summers – and much preferred to wander. Very much as Amerinds preferred to wander. It was a good idea too, for health, for preservation of the natural environment, and for psychological outlook (particularly in regards to social structuring).
It’s easy to understand that other “white” people, given their ever-popular blinders, are quite unlikely to have realized the many preconceptions involved in their speculations about life in the Americas before Columbus. Tribes were long taken as fairly permanent fixtures with “chiefs”, defined “hunting grounds” and codified standards for conduct. But it occurs to me that things may well have been much more fluid than that, with lots more travel and exchange of ideas than has generally been recognized. And what may look like a city to us, might indeed have been something of a very different nature, with different utility and even rapidly changing – or perhaps better said, alternating - occupants.
In some “Pueblos” there may have been fixed abodes, and in others not, I don’t know, but in general, it stands to reason to see North American natives as having moved about a good deal, and ‘cities’ to have usually been but temporary abodes. I wonder if Amazon will ever have a book about that.

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