Message #41: From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Subject: Intro to Amerind (Part II) Date: Sun, 19 Jan 1997 20:01:59 -0700 Encoding: MIME-Version: 1.0 Source The culture area of Mesoamerica-Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, western Honduras, and western Nicaragua-was one of farming villages producing maize, beans, squash, amaranth, turkeys, and other foods, supporting large city markets where traders sold tools, cloth, and luxury goods imported over long land and sea trade routes. In the cities lived manufacturers and their workers, merchants, the wealthy class, and priests and scholars who recorded literary, historical, and scientific works in native-language hieroglyphic texts (astronomy was particularly advanced). Cities were adorned with sculptures and brilliant paintings, often depicting the Mesoamerican symbols of power and knowledge: the eagle, lord of the heavens; the jaguar, lord of the earth; and the rattlesnake, associated with wisdom, peace, and the arts of civilization. South America The culture areas of South America extend from lower Central America-eastern Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica-to the southern tip of South America. Four principal areas can be distinguished: northern South America, including the Caribbean and lower Central America; the central and southern Andes Mountains and adjacent Pacific coast; the Tropical Forest of eastern South America; and the tip and eastern portion of the narrow southern third of the continent, an area supporting only nomadic hunting-and-gathering peoples. Northern South America and the Caribbean The culture area of northern South America and the Caribbean includes jungle lowlands, grassy savannah plains, the northern Andes Mountains, some arid sections of western Ecuador, and the islands of the Caribbean. Given its geographical location, the region might seem to link the great civilizations of Mexico and Peru; but because land travel through the jungles and mountains of lower Central America is difficult, pre-Columbian contacts between Peru and Mexico took place mostly by sea, from Ecuador's Gulf of Guayaquil to western Mexican ports. The native peoples of northern South America and the Caribbean lived in small, independent states. Although they traded directly with Mexico and Peru by way of Ecuador, they were bypassed by the empires. Finds of Clovislike spearpoints indicate the presence of hunters in the area by 9000 BC; other evidence suggests that people were in the northern region by 18,000 BC. The Archaic style of living continued from the time of the extinction of the mastodons and mammoths, in the Clovis period, until about 3000 BC. About this time, village dwellers developed the cultivation of maize in Ecuador, and of manioc (a tropical tuber) in Venezuela, and pottery making flourished. Also after this date, the Caribbean islands began to be settled. By 500 BC, in towns in some areas of northern South America, distinctive local styles had developed in sculpture and metalwork. Population growth and technological progress continued until the Spanish conquered the region; at that time the Chibcha kingdoms of Colombia were famous for their fine gold ornaments. Around the Caribbean, smaller groups such as the Mskito of Nicaragua, the Cuna of Panama, and the Arawak and Carib peoples of the Caribbean islands farmed and fished around their villages; the Carib also lived along the coast of Venezuela. These peoples lived a simpler life than did the peoples of the northern Andean states. Central and Southern Andes The lofty chain of the Andes Mountains that stretches down the western half of South America, together with the narrow coastal valleys between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, were the home of the great civilizations of Native Americans in South America. In recent years, excavation at the Monte Verde site in southern Chile has yielded unequivocal evidence of human occupation dating back to 11,000 BC. Excavations farther north, in Peru, show that by 7000 BC beans, including the lima bean, were cultivated, as were chili peppers. A few centuries later the domestication of llamas was begun. Guinea pigs were eventually raised for meat; cotton, potatoes, peanuts, and other foods gradually became part of Peruvian agriculture, and about 2000 BC maize was brought from the northern Andes. The peoples of the Pacific coast, from Chile through Peru into Ecuador, also made use of the rich sea life, which included many species of fish, as well as water birds, sea lions, dolphins, and shellfish. After 2000 BC peoples in villages in several coastal valleys of central Peru organized to build great temples of stone and adobe on large platforms. After about 900 BC these temples appear to have served a new religion, centered in the mountain town of Chavn de Huntar. This religion had as its symbols the eagle, the jaguar, the snake (probably an anaconda), and the caiman (alligator), which seems to have represented water and the fertility of plants. These symbols are somewhat similar to those of the Mexican Olmec religion, but no definite link between the two cultures is known. After 300 BC Chavn influence-or possibly political power-declined. The Moche civilization then appeared on the northern coast of Peru, and the Nazca on the southern coast. In both, large irrigation projects, towns, and temples were constructed, and extensive trade was carried on, including the export of fine ceramics. The Moche depicted their daily life and their myths in paintings and in ceramic sculpture; they showed themselves as fearsome warriors and also made molded ceramic sculptures depicting homes with families, cultivated plants, fishers, and even lovers. They were also expert metalworkers. By about AD 600 the Moche and Nazca cultures declined, and two new, powerful states appeared in Peru: Huari in the central mountains, and Tiahuanacu in the southern mountains at Lake Titicaca. Tiahuanacu seems to have been a great religious center, reviving symbols from the Chavn. These states lasted only a few centuries; after 1000, coastal states again became important, especially Chim in the north, with its vast and magnificent adobe-brick capital city of Chanchan. All Peru was eventually conquered by a state that arose in the central mountains at Cuzco; this was the Quechua state, ruled by a people known as the Inca. The emperor of the Inca at the time, Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, began large-scale expansion of the empire in the 1400s; by 1525 Inca rule extended from Ecuador to Chile and Argentina. Civil war raged within the empire from 1525 to 1532. At its conclusion, the Spanish adventurer Francisco Pizarro landed in Peru and had little trouble conquering the war-wasted Inca Empire. During this time the central and southern Andes were populated by farmers who raised a variety of crops. Local products, transported by llama caravans, were exported and traded between the coast, the mountains, and the eastern tropical jungle. The region's kingdoms were governed by administrators aided by soldiers and priests. Prehistoric Peru had the only great civilization known that did not use writing; but the Peruvians did use the abacus for arithmetic calculations, and they kept numerical records for government by means of abacuslike sets of knotted strings called quipus. The Tropical Forest The jungle lowlands of eastern South America seem to have been settled after 3000 BC, for archaeologists have not found evidence of any earlier peoples. Population was always relatively sparse, clustered along riverbanks where fish could be obtained and manioc and other crops planted. Various herbs and foods were cultivated, including hallucinogens for use in religious rituals; these were also exported to Peru. Although animals such as tapirs and monkeys were hunted, little game was supported by the jungle forests. No large towns existed-people lived in thatch houses in villages. Sometimes the whole village slept in hammocks, which were invented here. Little clothing was worn, because of the damp heat, but cotton cloth was woven, and the people ornamented themselves with painting. Among the many small groups of the Tropical Forest culture area are the Makiritare, the Yanomamo, the Mundurucu, the Tupinamba, the Shipibo, and the Cayap. Speakers of Arawak and Carib languages-linguistic relatives of Caribbean peoples-also live in the northern Tropical Forest. Although Tropical Forest peoples retain much of their traditional way of life, today they suffer from diseases brought by Europeans and from destruction of their lands by ranchers, loggers, miners, and agribusiness corporations. Southernmost South America In Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, farming peoples such as the Mapuche of Chile still live in villages and cultivate maize, potatoes, and grains. Although they once kept llamas, after the Spanish invasions they began to raise cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens, and used horses for herding and for warfare. Farther south, on the Pampas, agriculture was not suitable; people lived by hunting guanacos and rheas and, on the coasts, by fishing and gathering shellfish. In Tierra del Fuego evidence of this hunting-and-gathering life dates from 7000 BC. On the Pampas, hunting was transformed when the horse was obtained from the Spaniards after AD 1555. The Tehuelche pursued guanacos from horseback, and like the North American Plains peoples, once they had horses for transport, they enjoyed larger tepees as well as more clothing and other goods. Farthest south, around the Strait of Magellan, the Ona, Yahgan, and Alacaluf lacked the game animals of the Pampas; they survived principally on fish and shellfish, but also hunted seals and sea lions. Nomadic peoples, they lived in small wigwams covered with bark or sealskins. In spite of the cold, foggy climate, they wore little clothing. Life in Tierra del Fuego appears to have changed little over 9000 years, for no agriculture or herding is possible in the climate. The peoples native to this region suffered greatly from diseases brought by Europeans, and few survive today. Traditional Way of Life Among the elements of the traditional ways of life of Native Americans are their social and political organization, their economic and other activities, and their religions, languages, and art. Social and Political Organization Social organization among Native Americans, as among peoples throughout the world, is based largely on the family. Some Native American societies emphasize the economic cooperation of husband and wife, others that of adult brothers and sisters. As among various other peoples, men's work has been largely separate from women's work. Women usually took responsibility for the care of young children and the home, and for the cultivation of plants, while men frequently hunted, traveled for trade, or worked as laborers. Native American societies also parallel societies elsewhere in that their size and complexity are affected by the economic potential of their environment. Accordingly, the smallest societies are found in regions that are poor in food resources. Examples include the Cree and the Athapaskan-language peoples of the Canadian Subarctic, the Paiute of the Nevada desert, and the Ona and Yahgan of Tierra del Fuego. Among these peoples, two or three couples and their children often lived together, hunting, fishing, gathering plant foods, and moving camp several times a year to take advantage of seasonal foods in different localities. During the season when food was most available, usually summer, these small groups would gather together, with several hundred people spending a few weeks in feasting, trading, and visiting. When agriculture is possible, communities have been larger, from one or two hundred to thousands of people. In most of what is now the United States, people lived in villages and formed a loosely organized alliance with nearby villages. The alliance and each village were governed by councils; village councils usually consisted of representatives from each family, and the alliance council was made up of representatives from the villages. The council selected a man or, in some areas (especially the North American Southeast), sometimes a woman to act as chief-that is, to preside over the council and act as principal liaison in dealing with other groups. Often the chief was selected from a family that trained its children for leadership. In many areas families in the villages were linked together in clans-that is, groups believed to be descended from one ancestral couple. Clans usually owned resources such as agricultural plots and fishing stations; they allotted these as needed to member families and protected their members. Similar societies became common in the Tropical Forest culture area of South America. In pre-Columbian times in Mesoamerica and the Andes of South America, kingdoms that had hundreds of thousands of subjects and empires with millions of subjects were established. These societies were stratified, with a large lower class of farmers, miners, and craft workers; a middle class of merchants and officials; and an upper class of rulers who maintained armies and a priesthood. In many of these states, children were educated in formal schools; most children were trained to follow their parents' occupations, but talented youth might be selected for more suitable work. Citizens supported the state religion, although in the empires local religious observances were sometimes permitted to coexist with the state religion. War captives and debtors often became slaves. The Inca state in Peru was tightly organized and controlled, moving persons and even whole villages around the empire to meet its needs. In Mesoamerican kingdoms, on the other hand, clanlike local groups were generally allowed limited power. On first encountering Native American societies, Europeans frequently did not understand their organization, which differed in various ways from European types of social organization; subsequently, the native organization was modified by the British or Spanish conquerors. In North America, Europeans failed to recognize the respect and power accorded to women of the Iroquois, Creek, and a number of other peoples. Among the Iroquois, for example, women made the final decisions in major areas of government. In California, Europeans who saw the local upper class living in thatch houses and wearing little clothing failed to understand that the region's native communities had different social classes and highly organized ownership of property. Many descriptions of indigenous societies were written after wars between Europeans and Native Americans and epidemics of diseases brought by Europeans had severely reduced native populations and disrupted their societies. Other accounts were written with a particular bias, to support an author's ideas of how humans ought to live. Thus, many false stereotypes of Native Americans and their societies became common. Food Since at least 2000 BC, most Native Americans have lived by agriculture. Maize was the most common grain, but certain grainlike plants were also popular, notably amaranth in Mesoamerica and quinoa in the Andes. Several varieties of beans and squash were grown alongside maize; many varieties of potato were cultivated in the Andes; and manioc, a tropical tuber, was raised in the Tropical Forest area of South America. All these plants, as well as peanuts, chili peppers, cotton, cacao (chocolate), avocados, and many others, were domesticated and developed as crops by Native Americans. Livestock was less important to Native Americans than to peoples on other continents. In the Andes guinea pigs were bred for meat and llamas for transport and meat, and in Mesoamerica turkeys were domesticated. Protein was often obtained from plants, especially beans. Maize-growing peoples obtained calcium by soaking maize in a lime solution as a step in preparing it to eat. Throughout the Americas additional protein was obtained from fish and game animals, especially deer. Outside Mesoamerica and the Andes, in many Native American communities game ranges were regularly burned to improve pasture, thereby maintaining favorable conditions for deer and, on the Plains, for bison. In Mesoamerica and Peru, land was too valuable to pasture animals; instead, land was cultivated, intensively irrigated, and, in mountain regions, terraced. Hunting and fishing techniques were highly developed by Native Americans, particularly in regions not suited to agriculture. Traps of all kinds were common. Plains peoples relied on corrals hidden under bluffs or in ravines; herds of bison were driven into the corrals, where they were easily slaughtered. Inuit and Subarctic groups drove caribou into corrals, or they ambushed them in mountain passes or river fords. Guanacos were similarly hunted in the South American Pampas. Fish were usually taken in nets or weir traps (where a fence or enclosure is set in a waterway to catch fish), except in the Northwest Pacific Coast area, where tons of salmon could be speared at the river rapids. Techniques of food preparation have varied according to the type of food and the culture area. In maize-growing regions, tortillas remain common, as does a similar flat bread of manioc flour in the Tropical Forest. Techniques of drying foods, including meats, have always been important. In pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica and the Andes, nobles indulged in elaborate feasts of richly prepared dishes. Clothing and Adornment In their traditional clothing Native Americans differed from Europeans in that they placed less importance on completely covering the body. The peoples of warm climates, in California and the Tropical Forest, for example, often did not bother with much clothing except at festivals; then they adorned themselves with flowers and paint, and often with intricate feather headdresses. In Mesoamerica and Peru, men wore a breechcloth and a cloak knotted over one shoulder, and women wore a skirt and a loose blouse; these garments were woven of cotton or, in Peru, sometimes of fine vicua (a relative of the llama) wool. North American hunting peoples made garments of well-tanned deer, elk, or caribou skin; a common style was a tunic, longer for women than for men, with detachable sleeves and leggings. Northwest Pacific Coast peoples wore rain cloaks of woven cedar fiber. In the Arctic, the Inuit and Aleuts wore parkas, pants, and boots of caribou or, when needed, of waterproof fish skin. Except in Canada and Alaska, where parkas and coats were worn, Native Americans in cold weather usually wrapped themselves in robes, cloaks, or ponchos. Housing and Construction Modes of shelter, like food, show adaptation to environment. Some houses that appear simple, such as the Inuit iglu or the Florida Seminole chikee, are quite sophisticated: The iglu (Inuit for "house"), usually made of hide or sod over a wood or whalebone frame, is a dome with a sunken entrance that traps heat indoors but allows ventilation; the chikee, naturally air-conditioned, consists of a thatch roof over an open platform. The tepee of the Plains peoples constitutes efficient housing for people who must move camp to hunt; tepees are easily portable and quickly erected or taken down, and an inner liner hung from midway up the tepee allows ventilation without drafts, so that the enclosed space is comfortable even in winter. Some peoples in cold climates that were well supplied with wood, such as the peoples of Tierra del Fuego and the Subarctic Athapaskan-language peoples, relied on windbreaks with good fires in front, rather than on tents. Many other peoples, including some Athapaskan tribes as well as Inuit, Californians, Intermountain peoples, and early Southwesterners, spent cold weather in dome-shaped houses that were sunk well into the ground for insulation. Plains farming peoples, including the Pawnee and Mandan, built aboveground dome houses insulated with earth applied over pole frames. The Navajo hogan, a round log-house banked with earth, is similar. Mesoamerican and Andean peoples constructed buildings of stone and cement as well as of wood and adobe. Public buildings and the houses of the upper class were usually built on raised-earth platforms, with a large number of rooms arranged around atria and courtyards. In cities and in the Pueblo towns of the Southwest, multistoried apartment blocks were built. Trade and Transportation To all Native Americans, trade was an important economic activity. The early empire of Teotihuacn in Mexico was founded on the manufacture and export of blades of obsidian, a natural volcanic glass that made the best stone knives. Several centuries later, the Aztecs organized their conquests by sending merchants into other kingdoms to develop trade, act as spies, and help plan conquest if the foreign ruler failed to give favorable terms to Aztec trade. In the Inca Empire excellent highways were built over difficult mountain terrain in order to move quantities of local specialty products in pack trains of llamas. Trade was also conducted by sea along South America and around Mexico and the Caribbean. Much sea trade was carried in large sailing rafts or, in the Caribbean, in canoes made from huge logs. Trade goods in Mesoamerica and the Andes included foodstuffs, manufactured items such as cloth, knives, and pottery, and luxuries such as jewelry, brilliant tropical bird feathers, and chocolate. Both medicinal and hallucinogenic drugs were widely traded. Goods were bought and sold in large open markets in towns and cities. Outside the kingdoms of Mesoamerica and the Andes, trade was often carried on by traveling parties who were received in each village by its chief, who supervised business as the people gathered around the trader. In many areas, including California and the Eastern Woodlands, small shells or shell beads-called wampum in the Eastern Woodlands-were used as money. Because traders carried their goods on their backs or in canoes, trade goods were usually relatively light, small items. Furs and bright-colored feathers were valued in trade nearly everywhere. In western North America dried salmon, fish oil, and fine baskets were major trade products, and in eastern North America expertly tanned deer hides, copper, catlinite pipe-bowl stone, pearls, and conch shells were widely traded. Recreation and Entertainment The games and other recreational activities of Native Americans have had much in common with those of peoples elsewhere. Children traditionally played with dolls and with miniature figures and implements, imitating adult activities; in groups they played tag, the one who was "it" often pretending to be a jaguar or similar animal. Youths and adults played games with balls-rubber balls in Mesoamerica and northern South America, hide or fiber balls elsewhere. The Mesoamerican ball game called tlatchtli was somewhat similar to basketball in that it was played in a rectangular court and had the goal of knocking a hard ball through a stone hoop high on the court wall; players, however, were not allowed to use their hands, but only body parts such as the hips and knees. In Mesoamerica these ball games often were seen as rituals of cosmic significance. Lacrosse was popular in the eastern region of North America and eventually was adopted by European settlers. In southern South America a game was played that resembled field hockey. Chunkey, a kind of bowling with a stone disk instead of a ball, was a favorite in the Midwest. Hoop-and-pole, in which players throw sticks at a rolling hoop, was played throughout most of the Americas. Guessing games, with the players trying to guess where a token piece is hidden, continue to be popular among the Native Americans of North America, but are not common in South America; players usually sing and beat a rhythm, trying to confuse their opponents. In both North and South America games of chance using dice are still played, and the Aztecs of earlier times had a board game similar to the modern game of Parcheesi. Competitions-in foot racing, wrestling, archery, and, after the Spanish invasions, horse racing-were generally popular, as were variants of snow snake, in which a smooth stick is slid along a course. Minor amusements that are still popular include cat's cradle, in which a symbolic string figure is constructed on the player's fingers, and the use of tops and swings. Religion and Folklore Native American religious beliefs and practices display great diversity. As among other peoples, educated and philosophical persons may hold beliefs that differ from those of most people living in the same community; this was also true in the past. The Mexican and Andean nations, the peoples of the North American Southwest and Southeast, and some Northwest Pacific Coast peoples had full-time religious leaders as well as shrines or temple buildings. Peoples of other areas had part-time priests and generally lacked permanent temples. Part-time priests and shamans (faith healers, who often also used medicinal plants to cure) learned to conduct ceremonies by apprenticing themselves to older practitioners; in the larger nations priests were trained in schools attached to the temples. In some regions religious leaders formed fraternal orders to train initiates and share knowledge; examples include the Ojibwa of the Eastern Woodlands and the Pawnee of the Plains. Most Native Americans believe that in the universe there exists an Almighty-a spiritual force that is the source of all life. The Almighty of Native American belief is not pictured as a man in the sky; rather, it is believed to be formless and to exist throughout the universe. The sun is viewed as a manifestation of the power of the Almighty, and Europeans often thought Native Americans were worshipping the sun, when, in fact, they were addressing prayers to the Almighty, of which the sun was a sign and symbol. In many areas of the Americas, the Almighty was recognized in several aspects: as light and life-power, focused in the sun; as fertility and strength, centered in the earth; as wisdom and the power of earthly rulers, observed in creatures such as the jaguar, the bear, or snakes. In most places in the Americas, religious devotees enhanced their ability to perceive aspects of the Almighty, sometimes by using hallucinogenic plants, or sometimes by fasting and singing prayers until they achieved a spiritual vision. In northern and western North America, most boys and many girls were sent out alone to fast and pray until they thought they saw a spirit that promised to help them achieve the power to succeed in adult life. Shamans among the Inuit, along the Northwest Coast, in South America, and in some other areas went into trances, believing that their souls could then battle evil spirits or search the earth for the wandering souls of sick patients. Most Native American peoples have myths in which a time is described when the earth was not as it now appears, and during which it became transformed by the actions of legendary persons, or animals who spoke with humans. Unlike many Europeans, Native Americans tend not to consider humans entirely different from animals and plants; instead, they often believe that other beings are like humans and that all are dependent on the life-giving power of the Almighty. Some Native American myths, such as the myth of Lone Man (of the Plains people known as the Mandan), describe a wise leader who teaches the arts of life to the people; others, such as the California-Intermountain myths about Coyote, describe foolishly clever antics. Native Americans generally have shown less interest in an afterlife than have Christians. Native Americans have traditionally tended to assume that the souls of the dead go to another part of the universe, where they have a pleasant existence carrying on everyday activities. Souls of unhappy or evil persons might stay around their former homes, causing misfortunes. Many Native American peoples have celebrated an annual memorial service for deceased relatives; in Latin America this observance later became fused with the Christian All Souls' Day. Both private prayer and public rituals are common among Native Americans. Individuals regularly give thanks to the Almighty; communities gather for symbolic dances, processions, and feasts. The Sun Dance of the Plains peoples is an annual summer assembly at which a thousand or more people meet to fast and pray together, praising and beseeching the blessings of the Almighty. The Pueblos of the Southwest, like the Iroquois of the Eastern Woodlands, continue to observe a yearly cycle of festivals: In spring they pray for good crops; in autumn they celebrate the harvests. Various tribes used certain ritual objects (such as the long-stemmed pipe used by priests in North America to blow tobacco-smoke incense) to symbolize the power of the Almighty; when displayed, these objects reminded people to cease quarrels and remember moral obligations.