Reflections on Prehistory

Copyright 1996 by James Q. Jacobs
The following essays, written in 1995, are the assignment products
of my first archaeology class. For more recent information on
paleoanthropology, visit the Paleoanthropology in the 1990s pages.

Homo habilis and Homo erectus. 5 - 1.5 Mya.

Homo sapiens. 1.5 Mya. - 25,000 ya.

100,000 - 20,000 BP.

Homo sapiens, var. sapiens. 40,000 - 20,000 BP.














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Humans evolved in the context of a world system. Human societies remain a part of an ever-changing world system. Cosmological and terrestrial forces shaped our environment, climate and evolutionary path. Temporal variants are the grist of our evolutionary mill, producing changes and modification. Beneficial characteristics are survival selected and have produced evolutionary change.

Four million years ago Australopithecus ramidus walked upright. So did A. afarensis three million years ago in a forested environment. The first hominid artifacts, stone tools, are known from 2.5 million years ago, along with stone tool cut marks on bone of prey species. The Great Ice Age, or Pleistocene era, begins at this point in time, probably altering human diet and adaptations. Homo erectus evolved from Homo habilis 1.5 million years ago and eventually migrated to Europe and Asia.

Research by the Leakeys suggests that food sharing behavior was existent l.5 million years ago. Around this time 1000 cc. brains evolved and some stone tool advances occur, in particular, the stone ax is known. These artifacts and their attributes evidence the level of intelligence and the cognitive capabilities of our early ancestors. Stone transport to use sites indicates foresight and planning. During the lower Paleolithic H. erectus began to control fire and construct shelter. Geographic range and population expanded.

The paucity of early hominid evidence leaves important gaps in our knowledge of the nature of our remote primate ancestors. I wonder when social grouping became the norm for our species. Because apes and chimps exhibit social behavior I suspect that we were social creatures before branching from the other Hominoidea 5-10 million years ago. Another gap in knowledge is the timing of the onset of bipedalism. We are unique among Hominoidea in this regard. Bipedalism liberates two limbs and we subsequently developed hand tools. Our survival capability was enhanced by tools. Did this change provide the niche for further social development, leading to other changes like increased brain size?

Bipedalism, brain size, language, culture, the limited degree of human brain development at birth, and longer infant dependency are the features that make us unique. Some aspects of how this evolution occurred remain obscure. If social organization anteceded these developments what role did it play? The percentage of cerebral development after birth suggests a role for social organization, culture and individual interactions in this evolution. A small cranium at birthing has obvious survival advantages as do large brains. I wonder if our social bonds influenced the survival selection of bipedalism in a way not mentioned in our readings to date. Post birth dependency resulting from smaller birth cranium survival selection may have resulted in greater use of forelimbs to carry and nurse offspring. Is right handedness also an outgrowth of child care?

We evolved as part of the world system with recurrent climactic alterations necessitating adaptation and readaptation to changing ecosystems. Did bipedalism equip us for savanna adaptation or result from it? Did we invent tools due to the pressure of survival or did survival selectivity of bipedalism provide the niche (freed hands and related neural centers) for ever better adaptations? Perhaps our history of survival selection worked in some very subtle and, from our present perspectives, elusive ways not yet clearly envisioned.

- - ANTHROPOLOGY WEB RING -- Anthropology and Archaeology Pages


The current 65 million year long Cenozoic Era is divided into the five epoch Tertiary Period and the present Quarternary consisting of the recent 10,000 year Postglacial and the Pleistocene epochs. The latter is characterized by extreme alterations in climate that placed intense survival pressures on hominids. Behavioral flexibility was survival selected by abrupt, extreme ecological changes. During this period Homo erectus migrated out of Africa with a most important ability, the control of fire.

In Europe and the Middle East Homo sapiens, var. neanderthalensis evolved. A short stocky hominid of powerful physique with prominent brow ridges, a sharply sloped back forehead and a cranial capacity greater than modern humans, Neanderthals were well adapted to the temperate to arctic zone they occupied. Substantial evidence of human occupation in Europe appears coincident to the Mindel/Riss interglacial, 350,000 years ago. A new distinct archaic form of H. sapiens is evidenced in sub-Saharan Africa 200,000 years ago. The oldest fully modern humans, Homo sapiens, var. sapiens, are evidenced in the Klaiser River Mouth caves in South Africa from 120,000 - 60,000 years ago. DNA based research conclusions support the theory of African genesis of H. sapiens, sapiens between 200,000 and 140,000 years ago. Artifacts and remains place modern humans in the Near East 90,000 years ago (with typical Neanderthal associated tool assemblages), and in Europe 40,000 years ago, coincident to the Riss-Urm/Eem/Sangamon Interglacial.

The Upper Pleistocene includes the Middle and Upper Paleolithic. Middle Paleolithic behavioral changes evidenced include greater variety of flaked tools and flaking techniques, elaborated burials and nurturing of the weak or elderly. During this time similar characteristic Neanderthal tool assemblages are known from sites separated by thousands of kilometers. Season specific tasks are also evidenced. Important behavioral advances first evidenced during the Upper Paleolithic are art, new tool inventions and tailored clothing. Towards the end of the Paleolithic, as new habitats are exploited, more aquatic and avian foods are added to the human diet. Pleistocene humans coexisted with and also preyed upon a megafauna that included giant species of elephants, bison, sloth, felines, wolves, beaver and avians, eventually having a role in their extinction as the Pleistocene ends and the global climate alternates to the present, warm Postglacial.

It is no coincidence that two H. sapiens varieties are first evidenced in Europe coincident to two interglacial periods. These warm periods would have provided very favorable conditions and niches for population expansions. Millennia later the subsequent cold period would have forced adaptations in the relocated populations. The first wave of archaic humans did not have the advantage of a previously adapted group to learn from. Given the finding of the earliest Homo sapiens sapiens in the Near East in association with typical Neanderthal tools the question of what role the preadapted and better biologically adapted Neanderthals played in the successful adaptation of the later and less biologically adapted H. sapiens sapiens seems important. Did modern - Neanderthal interaction contribute to our Pleistocene adaptation and help capacitate moderns for adaptation in the temperate-boreal region?

- - ANTHROPOLOGY WEB RING -- Anthropology and Archaeology Pages


After millions of years of sluggish evolution a major population expansion of early modern Homo sapiens occurs from 80,000 to 30,000 years ago. H. erectus population has been estimated at 125,000 world-wide based on a carry capacity of five persons per thousand square kilometers. The major Lower Paleolithic Acheulian stone assemblages show a remarkable uniformity from Korea to South Africa, indicating high levels of movement and the social capacity for exchange. A scenario consistent with ecological and genetic evidence indicates spread to separate regions from an initial restricted area about 100,000 years ago followed by dramatic population growth, especially after 50,000 B. P.

Archaic H. sapiens controlled fire for heat, cooking and light and erected shelter, behaviors that demonstrate how culture and acquired knowledge began to out pace biological adaptation, equipping humans with the flexibility to inhabit new areas and adapt to changing conditions. The few sites known from this time give a fragmented picture, in both temporal and spatial terms, of this great advance of our ancestors. The diaspora evidences the success of our Pleistocene adaptation. Specific specialized adaptations like big game hunting and subsequent resource depletion, especially if focused on only a few species of easily and safely dispatched megafauna in combination with an evolving ability for way finding, exploring and resource scouting, may have fueled some of these advances, especially into the vast Asian interior. Specialized successful adaptation to shoreline environments in combination with population growth and resource limitations would have also fueled the advance of population at a steady constant rate. Did groups that diverged perhaps 100,000 years ago subsequently reencounter each other with some hybrid benefits, culturally and genetically? The diffusion of the Acheulean style tools indicates a capacity to communicate knowledge among archaic humans, in turn probably further enabling and fueling the human diaspora.

- - ANTHROPOLOGY WEB RING -- Anthropology and Archaeology Pages


We modern humans emerged anatomically earlier than the cultural characteristics that we today commonly associate with modern humans. A new set of cultural features appeared in full bloom during the Upper Paleolithic, about 30,000 to 35,000 years ago, when population expansion spread to extensive new areas in Asia, Europe and Australia. The cultural baggage of H. sapiens at the time included musical instruments, ceramics, sculpture, flaked stone blades, portable art objects, jewelry, and new tools and equipment. Materials employed were stone, bone, antler, teeth, ivory, wood and clay. The important invention of the needle occurred and sewn, fitted clothing and footwear were invented. A dozen bird bone flutes are known from between 32,000 and 22,000 BP. Art included the adornment of bodies by 30,000 years ago. Materials proveniences of hundreds of miles distance indicate long distance travel or trade networks.

Mural paintings of anatomically and seasonally accurate animals first appear. In both Australia and Africa art is evidenced by 18,000 years ago, approximately coincident to the most important collection of Upper Paleolithic art in the world, the Lascaux Cave, a subterranean gallery with 600 paintings and 1500 engravings. Here animal depiction has an emphasis on pregnancy. Spears in flight are depicted. This art is generally carefully planned and skillfully executed. The oldest rock art is dated to 27,000 BP. Mural and portable art appear at the same time.

A particularly culturally reflective figurine appears across an area from France to Siberia, the so-called Mother Earth figure; an often spherically-exaggerated, sometimes pregnant and usually abundantly voluptuous female anthropomorphic statue made of stone, bone, ivory or clay. Nothing before in the archaeological record matches the number, kind and importance of the changes witnessed in association with the first modern humans in Europe. Probably the ease of life in the interglacial had a beneficial affect on the population of moderns and thereby indirectly contributed to the rate of cultural advance. The changes witnessed in this era are cultural adaptations, not biological. At the end of the interglacial humanity had to respond to a sudden shift to much colder conditions. The needle and the ability to design and sew garments made adaptation plausible when combined with fire and shelter. Most significantly, these adaptations are a testament to a more intelligent human, literally weathered by the repeated climactic fluctuations of the Pleistocene in such manner that intelligence and behavioral flexibility were profoundly survival selected.

The earliest artistic product of the first H. sapiens sapiens is of importance today as a first window into the minds of our ancestors, as clues from the archaeological record to unravel some aspect of the thinking and beliefs of early moderns. As such this material deserves great attention. Study of world rock art and the insights from such studies represent a singular window into our remote cultural past.

- - ANTHROPOLOGY WEB RING -- Anthropology and Archaeology Pages


Nothing before in the archaeological record matches the number, kind and importance of the changes witnessed in association with the first modern humans in Europe. Probably the ease of life in the interglacial had a beneficial affect on the population of moderns and thereby indirectly contributed to the rate of cultural advance. The changes witnessed in this era are cultural adaptations, not biological. At the end of the interglacial humanity had to respond to a sudden shift to much colder conditions. The needle and the ability to design and sew garments made adaptation plausible when combined with fire and shelter. Most significantly, these adaptations are a testament to a more intelligent human, literally weathered by the repeated climactic fluctuations of the Pleistocene in such manner that intelligence and behavioral flexibility were profoundly survival selected.

The earliest artistic product of the first sapiens sapiens is of importance today as a first window into the minds of our ancestors, as clues from the archaeological record to unravel some aspect of the thinking and beliefs of early moderns. As such this material deserves great attention. Study of world rock art and the insights from such studies represent a singular window into our remote cultural past

The Wenachee site, dated to 11,000 B.P. and located in the Inner Columbia River Basin, presents evidence of a new assemblage of stone tools in the Americas at their earliest known horizon. These bifacially flaked tools have the unique characteristic of a central basal-struck flute allowing for secure hafting of the point to a shaft. Clovis tools range over an area extending from its hypothetical origin point in NE Asia to Southern South America, having the unique distinction in the archaeological record of the most extensive range of any artifact type since the hand ax. This first Pan American artifact trail evidences an unparalleled rapid migration or diffusion pattern. Two plausible land routes existed for the migrations to the Americas, the less likely coastal fringe and an occasionally ice-free corridor originating in Northern Alaska in the dry shadow east of the high West Coast mountains. This inland route was probably glacier free between 28,000 - 25,000 and around 15,000 B.P.

The three primary areas of investigation applicable to the prehistoric peopling of the Americas are dentition, linguistics, and genetics (particularly mitochondrial DNA study). Linguists recognize three major language families in the Americas, estimate the total language count at time of contact at 1,000 - 2,000 separate languages, and therefrom assume about 50,000 years of diversification. Genetic data suggests three Asiatic migrations and the presence of a Polynesian group of SE Asian extraction. Dentition studies show three main groups, supporting the view of several migrations. The three principal migrations are thought to be the Clovis of 11,000 B.P., the Aleut-Eskimo of 6,000 - 8,000 B.P., and the NaDene of about 5,000 B.P. The earliest arrivals introduced a new tool, the atlatl, or spear thrower, an extension of the human arm allowing for a large net increase in the force with which spears were thrown. Well-equipped early big game hunters played a significant role in the extinction of the North and South American megafauna at the end of the Pleistocene.

The great question of when the first hominids entered the Americas probably has an inundated answer. One of the principal adaptations of humans is the occupation of riverine and coastal sites, a multiple and diverse resource ecology that enhances survival at any latitude, but especially so in areas with lower sunlight where fish resources supply replacement sources for vitamins usually derived by exposure to sunlight. This habitat occupation means that evidence of human presence was impacted by rising sea levels. The very cold conditions of the Pleistocene would have limited human intrusion into the continental interior except along corridors of favorable low elevation. Perhaps the Wenachee Clovis site is just such an early intrusion into the interior via the Columbia river's singular low elevation pathway through the Cascade Mountains. Riverine and shoreline adaptations, especially inventions such as the boat and canoe, would have facilitated such a migration.

A plausible scenario is an early, pre-Clovis migration along the now inundated shoreline followed by a later land migration of big game hunting Clovis with their attendant projectile assemblage. If the Clovis point was invented in NE Asia one small band of migrants would have been sufficient to introduce the invention to an existing American population. Diffusion of the point and atlatl, rather than a population expansion, could account for evidence of rapid dispersal. There is little evidence of a specifically characterizable, separate population and the question remains, Did the invention migrate or did a diaspora of new people happen? Another question that arises is Did Americans invent the Clovis point and did it then diffuse to Asia? Linguistic, genetic and dentition evidence does not support the possibility of two pre-Aleut-Eskimo migrations. Either the migration was numerically insignificant or only the inventions diffused and migrated. Perhaps the Wenachee Clovis people left us an as yet undeciphered message in their "time capsule" intentional artifact internment which will someday offer insight into the 'great question'. Underwater archaeology offers other possibilities of accessing evidence, especially in favorable locations below modern sea level such as the limestone sinkholes in Florida where mineral springs have maintained anaerobic conditions. We must bear in mind the reasonable assumption that the vast majority of evidence is beyond recovery and that the earliest occupations in the Americas lie hidden below present day oceans.

See also:  The Paleoamericans   |  Paleoamerican Origins

- - ANTHROPOLOGY WEB RING -- Anthropology and Archaeology Pages


Seasonal food maturation, game migration and variable resource availability concentrates harvesting and thereby potentiates periodic excess, storage, and redistribution complexes. The more concentrated and storable a resource the likelier the evolution of sedentism, redistribution and greater social ordering and possible social stratification. Habitats with concentrated food resources (i.e. shorelines) witness a higher incidence of non-egalitarian community structuring. Intentional resource concentration by agriculture potentiates sedentism, larger communities and non-egalitarian redistribution and social stratification.

A personal role component of human exchange not dependent of natural production of resources is individual skill specialization such as tool manufacture. Tool use, communicating knowledge and experience and learning exemplify cultural adaptive capabilities. Language and sophisticated verbal interchange are implied by evidence of exchange. Interchange and learning potentiate individual and cultural specialization. Consequently redistribution becomes more important and reciprocity behavior is reinforced. Specialized activity products like the late H. erectus horizon Acheulean hand axes, which demonstrate similarity as far ranging as Southern Africa and Korea, evidence early diffusion of invention. Evidence also suggests systematic, cooperative hunting and resource sharing by H. erectus bands.

There is an innate reciprocity in organization by hominids in bands. Survival was enhanced by mutual protection from predation and the cooperation afforded by the group. Emergence of an understanding that group organization was intrinsic to survivability would promote reciprocating behaviors that further benefit the group or band.

Homo erectus bands are evidenced 3.2 million years ago. Just as the fittest survive so do the "fittest behavior patterns" survive, resulting in greater survivability. Individual survival dependency on the group promotes mutual exchange to the benefit of the group and thereby enhances individual survivability. One on one reciprocity would occur in this framework and personal role components would be important. Band mentality, or group consciousness and awareness, may hold the primordial position in our evolution of interactions of exchange, sharing of resources and reciprocity. Such actions could have been group directed to reciprocate for individual survival enhancement derived from membership. Individual interrelationships and personal prerogatives would play a more significant role in human exchange as groups became larger and successive adaptations enabled more individualistic survival strategies, a precursor to egocentric accumulation of resources and inequitable redistribution patterns that exist today. Present day egocentric behavior patterns may be counter to the patterns that ensured our survival for millions of years. Are we today on a path that is not necessarily group survival enhancing?

- - ANTHROPOLOGY WEB RING -- Anthropology and Archaeology Pages


Human hunter-gather populations attained carry capacity in various parts of the world before the end of the Paleolithic. A 10,000 year epoch of gradual warming began 15,000 years ago. Constructed settlements are evidenced before 12,000 years ago. By 10,000 years ago a variety of plants and animals were selectively propagated, soils and domesticated organisms were tended, watered and protected and storage pits, sickles and tillage tools occur. Effective hunting by expanding populations depleted or extincted large game resources during this time. By 7000 BP. cotton, root crops, legumes, rice, millet, sorghum, tomato, avocado, squash, corn, wheat, barley, peppers and other crops were successfully domesticated. Animals tamed included first goats and sheep and then also guinea pigs, bovines, horses, pigs, camelids, elephant, poultry and others. Domesticated animals represented both a readily available source of stored food and beasts of burden. Bovines and equines were adapted to tillage. Llamas were used to carry cargo. In Mesoamerica, where a full nutritional compliment was achieved with domesticated plants, animal domestication was of less significance. Agricultural innovations diffused, sometimes rapidly. Innovations for storage, including ceramic containers and architectural constructs, enhanced capabilities to accumulate surpluses and regulate food availability. Community sizes generally expanded with the advent of agriculture.

Archaeology has shed greater light on the Neolithic than previous eras. MacNeish's reconstructed 12,000 year sequence in the Tehuacan valley of Mesoamerica which evidences scheduling related to seasonality, transitions to domesticated plants and sedentism and evolution of the cultigens. Plant morphological changes due to intentional selection, propagation, and husbandry are well evidenced in the archaeological record. In South America evidence shows an early pattern of interaction encompassing several ecological zones and the transplantation of beans and other Amazonian plants to Andean and coastal zones by 8,000 BP. Early Ecuadorean and Peruvian sites document maize agriculture by 6,000 BP.

Nothing prior to agriculture represents a greater transition in human survival strategy or in resultant population expansion. Population is both an impetus for agriculture and a vehicle for its diffusion. The pressure of numbers due to the success of agriculture results in a concurrent outward expansion spatially and numeric expansion temporally, thereby diffusing both the practice and the cultigens to an every larger area. The rapid diffusion of the first grain crops probably reflects both population fissioning and diffusion of the strategy.

Seasonality scheduling based on temporal resource maturation and availability evidences an early human capacity to understand the cyclic nature of the ecosystem. This capability in combination with a complex of detailed observations and understandings about plant and animal propagation and adaptations made agriculture possible. Seasonal knowledge is far more critical to agricultural success in temperate areas than tropical so it is no surprise that the first cultigens were tropical species. Plants propagated by root parts and/or cuttings may have been the first cultigens. Plants propagated by seed present generational change and changes in these organisms readily evidence human interaction. The very earliest forms of domestication, simple transplanting and husbandry of desirable plants, are not readily evidenced in the archaeological record. Datura trees, a genus of ornate horticultural and medicinal species which lacks the ability to propagate from seed due to long and continual human intervention, exemplify this difference. The genus is survival dependent on humans taking cuttings and transplanting the trees. Although we cannot evidence this long interaction in the archaeological record we can draw conclusions from present circumstances.

Some aspects of the record of domestication are more accessible, as exemplified by DNA based studies of cattle population relationships. Results have demonstrated that although diverse breeds are evidenced all cattle breeds within each continent are closely related relative to twelvefold in number intracontinental differences in mtDNA base pairs, suggesting genetic divergence of European and Indian subcontinent wild aurochs nearly a million years ago. This evidences the domestication of separate populations of wild aurochs. Similar studies of plants should prove of utility in settling diffusion vs. separate domestication questions, in defining specific population relationships and, possibly, in revealing surprising new transpositions. A genetic tree of cultigens can be constructed if sufficient data is collected.

Little evidence exists regarding the significance of antecedents to agriculture ranging from simple species transposition and unintentional culturing (like seeds in midden areas) to plant and animal adaptations to human activity and disturbed areas. Did the proto-agriculturalists take note of their inadvertent effects on the occurrence and characteristics of weedy pioneers. Did they look to the midden for tomatoes and chilis upon arriving at a seasonal camp? Did wild species that were later domesticated first adapt to human affected niches?

- - ANTHROPOLOGY WEB RING -- Anthropology and Archaeology Pages


Mesopotamia is located on the fertile flood plain of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in a hot desert ecology. Human settlements based on irrigation agriculture first appeared coincident to the establishment of Eridu about 7400 BP. A great stepped tower, a ziggurat, which culminated a series of 20 structures built one upon another during a span of 3500 years evidences Eridu's importance. Public architectural monuments were the focus of early Mesopotamian community centers. By 6500 BP. large scale canal systems and many towns with public architecture had been founded. Eridu was the largest.

The Eridu period was followed by the Uruk, named for its largest and most impressive city. Settled by 6000 BP., Uruk grew to a population of 10,000 within a millennia. A significant number of developments occur in Mesopotamia during the Uruk period, including increased economic specialization, the introduction of metals, and use of beasts of burden, the wheel, cart and implements like the plow. River based exchange networks existed. Uruk's large and impressive Anu ziggurat was repeatedly enlarged to become Mesopotamia's largest.

During the dynastic period (5600 - 5100 BP.) a dozen city states evolved coincident with a widespread abandonment of rural settlement in the region. The population of Uruk rose to about 50,000 people and sprawled to cover 450 hectares, making it the world's first known urban center. Defensive walls around urban concentrations appeared. A significant new development during the Dynastic period was clay tablets with written script dating to 5,400 BP. A developed system with presentation conventions and 1500 ideographic and pictographic elements evolved. The Sumerian symbols can be equated with the forms of the earlier token convention dated to 10,000 BP. Writing facilitated cultural continuity, community organization and commodity transaction. During this period, about 5,000 BP., the first recognizable states appeared.

The innovation of irrigation agriculture made possible human settlement and population expansion in otherwise inhospitable areas. Mesopotamia exemplifies this emergent phenomena and provides one of the earliest case studies of a circumscribed marginal ecology being transformed into a breadbasket supporting large population centers. Only the Nile river exhibits a parallel situation and parallel developments during the same epoch. In Mesopotamia the earliest period of occupation by irrigation based agriculturalists centers on Eridu. Previous agricultural communities existed in northern Mesopotamia where rainfall adequate to support crops and domesticated animals occurs. What is unique at Eridu and other southern Mesopotamian settlements is a dependence on canal based irrigation, allowing emergent agriculturalists to adapt to an otherwise inhospitable ecology.

Irrigation did occur elsewhere prior to Eridu's settlement. At Eridu irrigation is a community scale enterprise. The earliest occupational levels include significant, central public structures that evolved to ziggurats. These structures remained central to Mesopotamian communities and are probably reflective of the evolution of community and regional organization during a continuum spanning millennia. Their constant rebuilding and enlargement is indicative of their social significance. Their centrality in the community is not only spatial; they are surrounded by important architecture like storage buildings and the most palatial compounds.

Canal works and public architecture evidence community organization. Evidence of land control or ownership systems is more ephemeral. Irrigation works make land more valuable to the agriculturalist or community, a quality dependent on a capacity to construct, operate and maintain a spatially complex, elaborate water transport system. This sort of sophisticated sphere of activity involves foresight, feasibility understanding, good engineering, organized construction and, to insure continuity, constant control and maintenance; in other words a community organization with continuity. Did communities, families or individuals own the land?

The value added dimension of irrigation system construction must have altered the way humans interrelated with land, particularly regarding temporality of ownership. Creators tend to view their products as property and persons and communities in creating extensive canal irrigation works became property owners. The ever larger central mound surmounted with community structures as the locus of the community area represents a form of deed, evidencing the community's longstanding claim to the locality. Today the ziggurats, tells and canal works remain as evidence from which the archaeologist works to reconstruct how the complex web of the first civilization and urban area evolved from a highly successful adaptation of irrigation agriculture.

The combination of agriculture, complex large scale irrigation works and community organization was such a successful adaptation that it sustained 50,000 member urban centers. The massive ziggurats, manifestations of the community's heritage and enduring temporality, encase many chapters in the history of the evolution of Sumerian civilization and statehood. Ziggurats, tells, canals and defensive walls write history for us today as surely as did the Sumerians evolve to utilize writing, annote our most ancient histories and thereby begin to close the door on prehistory.

- - ANTHROPOLOGY WEB RING -- Anthropology and Archaeology Pages


Statehood is broadly defined as internally specialized, hierarchically organized and temporally persistent government. A variety of possible causal factors have been noted as antecedents to the formation of political states. This multiplicity includes population growth, demographic pressure, population-resource imbalances, new methodologies and technologies, exchange and interaction (including bellicosity), organizational changes, community specialization and excesses of production, especially agricultural surpluses. Resource management, especially of complex canal and irrigation works, is a favored impetus to increased organizational complexities. In the model offered by R. Carneiro states evolve when population exceeds local resource capacity and this circumscription results in warfare and necessitates organizational change. It is now generally recognized that regional differences have influenced the process of evolving political complexities and no one explanation can be forced to fit all cases.

The first recognized states appear in Mesopotamia before 5000 BP. Upper and Lower Egypt were united in 5100 BP. Societies in East Asia, the Aegean and Indus regions developed state-organized societies between 4500-4000 BP., a millennia before similar organizations are evidenced in Middle and South America. The variety of causal factors in state formation is reflective of the diversity of contexts (geographic, ecological and temporal) which gave rise to extended political organization. Comparison of state development in various regions strongly supports population pressure as a primary moving force in increased organizational complexity. Complexity in numbers seems to necessitate a concomitant complexity in organization.

That statehood evolved, succeeded and persisted in numerous instances suggests its survival value. From its multiplicity of forms and occurrences variations in systems, their correspondent suitability to specific circumstances and resultant success or failure should be recognizable. Comparative study is of value to the extent that we correctly understand and interpret the archaeological record. Integrated, multi-disciplinarian approaches to interpreting the past are necessary to correctly appraise and understand the rise and fall of states and civilizations and thereby derive useful knowledge that may enhance present day survival.

- - ANTHROPOLOGY WEB RING -- Anthropology and Archaeology Pages


The Indus Valley encompasses a large floodplain of rich alluvial soils that supported human occupation sites with irrigation based agriculture as early as 6000 BP. Some early settlements were built on a grid system. Large centers of 30,00 to 40,000 people developed, principally Mohenjo-daro and Harrapa. During the Harrapa period (6000 - 3800 BP.) the 1,000,000 square kilometer region included four large centers and 250 to 300 smaller communities, primarily located near rivers and streams. At the largest centers public structures were built atop large elevated mud-brick platform mounds within enclosed precincts. Residential areas included spacious dwellings around courtyards serviced with showers and toilets. Central drainage served these centers. Baths were known. Some streets were stone paved.

Building bricks and structures evidence standardization. Survey tools and standards of weight and measure were utilized. A distinct Indus script evolved with 400 identified characters. Wheeled vehicles on land and an ocean venturing maritime capability combined in a complex regional trade and exchange network. Relative to other Old World civilizations, the Indus peoples evidence less inequality in wealth distribution and fewer large urban centers. Comparatively greater cultural centralization and unity is evidenced by the limited number of large centers, by decorative conventions and by a single standard manufacturing technology.

Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley are viewed as culturally disparate, with separate philosophical foundations. Distinctive world views and philosophies characterize the peoples of distinct regions. Indus culture is seen as non-violent and non-materialistic with a common good behavioral orientation. Animistic views influenced the cultural course taken by Indus civilization. The vast majority of people lived in small villages, a pattern that remains to this day and continues to support cultural continuity in the region

Central organization, planning and construction of large regional centers is evidenced in the Indus Valley. At Mohenjo-daro, the largest Indus city, an enormous investment in human energy is manifest in the two massive mud-brick platform mounds, the Citadel and Lower Town. The north-south grid system demonstrates large scale planning and coordination. The ratio of large scale centers also implies the same about regional organization, larger scale. Did an economy of fewer regional centers allow greater investment in those centers? Earlier settlement patterns in Mesopotamia include elaborate public architecture at the center of each settlement. By the time of Indus settlement some economies seem to have evolved related to monument occurrence and the scale and extent of central organization. Successful earlier developments in organization are apparently refined and streamlined. Indus Valley evidence suggests more efficient states regulating larger, more egalitarian and possibly more democratic polities.

In the earlier Mesopotamian sequence rural abandonment and population concentration in walled urban precincts is suggestive of circumscription, competition and intraregional warfare. In the later Indus Valley sequence the walled city scenario was avoided. Geographic size may have been a contributing difference. The Indus area is far larger. Cultural traits were certainly a factor. Perhaps the very stable political structure of the Indus village in combination with social-behavioral factors enabled greater stability, longer continuity and more expansive regional integration. Early models of civilizations existing in relative peace for long periods deserve careful scrutiny, especially with regard to factors enabling such success.

- - ANTHROPOLOGY WEB RING -- Anthropology and Archaeology Pages


The ecologically varied Andes and adjoining terrain produced a unique emergence of civilizations at an early date. A pre-agrarian, pre-ceramic adaptation to rich, easily accessible maritime resources coupled with a vertical adaptation to nearby stacked mountain resource zones enabled very early sedentary communities to develop along the 600 kilometer stretch of northern Peru's coast coincident with the continent's and one of the world's richest fisheries. In the oases of the numerous coastal valleys formed where Andean rivers transect the arid desert, pre-ceramic populations expanded to thirty times the Lithic (15,000 to 5,000 BP) Period levels. Village populations grew to 1,000 to 3,000 persons and large monumental architecture developed. Contemporaneous to the construction of pyramids in Egypt and ziggurats in Mesopotamia, small Peruvian coastal communities cyclically renovated ever larger pyramidal platform mounds that framed large, open plazas with circular sunken courts. Sites generally consisted of two or more different sized platforms surmounted with buildings. Aspero, a large early center with six major platforms, has 4800 to 5000 BP. carbon 14 dates from late phase construction. El Paraiso, the largest and most extensive pre-ceramic monument complex in the Americas, includes nine masonry platform constructs in a U shape framing a 7 hectare plaza. This first nucleated settlement occupied 58 hectares.

During the Pre-ceramic Period (5000 - 4000 BP.) cultivated squash and tubers introduced from the highlands, tropical tubers, beans and peppers from the Amazon and a variety of local wild grasses, seeds and fruits were exploited. At the beginning of the Initial Period (about 4,000 BP) coastal canal irrigation agriculture appeared. Hardy, no-tending cultigens are first known in South America from 10,000 BP. Separate sets of cultigens developed in the high and low altitudes. High altitude crops included potato, ulluco, oca, quinoa, canihua and maize varieties. These plants together with domestication of llamas and alpacas are the basis of the Andean agropastoral adaptation. Coastal agriculture included introduced cultigens from both the highland and Amazon zones. Early coastal communities could access a two hundred kilometer transect of the Andes, which includes twenty of the world's thirty four life zones in a transition from extreme aridity to extreme altitude and then extreme humidity and rainfall. Interaction, exchange and multiple zone exploitation of this diverse region was facilitated by beast of burden adaptation of the llama.

Coastal-Andean interaction spheres are especially evidenced during the exceptional Initial Period (4000 - 2800 BP.) spate of monument construction which included highland centers. During the Initial Period more mound building occurred than during any other. These economic, political and social centers share the El Paraiso characteristic U-shaped site layout and mountain facing orientation. At La Galgada the U-shaped superimposition dates to 3900 BP. Of twenty five Paraiso Tradition centers spanning from the Lurin to the Huaura valleys Sechin Alto grew to be the largest. In 3400 BP. Sechin Alto's 300 m. by 250 m. by 40 m. high mound was the largest American monument. Nearby Cerro Sechin's mound featured a wall of megalithic carved monuments. From the Huaura River north to the Santa 100 complexes with rectangular platform mounds fronted by sunken circular courts were constructed.

Located at about the midpoint of the Andes on a principal pass from coast to jungle, Chavin, a monumental site with finely carved stone sculpture, impressive engineering and elaborate iconography and art, saw occupation from 2900 to 2200 BP. Highlands centers like Chavin were supported by agrarian societies composed of dispersed small residential populations. Due to the wide homogeneous dispersal of Chavin style art Chavin is viewed as the first South American civilization horizon. The appearance of Chavin style art on the coast coincides with the beginning of the Early horizon (2800-2200 BP.). The homogeneous Chavin style followed a diverse heterogeneous pattern in the ceramics of the Initial Period. Chavin is rated as the most beautiful and important late Initial Period highland site. The monumental architecture includes a U-shaped principal mound oriented to face the rising sun. Deep within the platform mound a cruciform chamber is centered on EL Lanzon, a thirteen foot tall, prism shaped stelae that extends from floor to ceiling. Carved in bas-relief, the stelae depicts a standing anthropomorph that combines feline characteristics and serpent depiction. Finely carved, elaborate stelae and plaques decorate the center.

From 2900 BP. to 2500 BP. collapse of coastal region integration occurred. Fortress construction suggests the onset of intercommunity conflicts. Collapse of the nearby highland centers followed at the end of the Chavin Period, around 2250 BP., when military architecture appears and regional integration is apparently disrupted.

A second South American center of population emerged in the southern uplands centered on the largest Andean agricultural flatland surrounding high elevation Lake Titicaca. Although situated above 12,600 feet above sea level, the lake's hundreds of kilometers of shoreline supported a dense population. At Chiripa a large platform mound was built by 3000 BP. Tiwanaku, the southernmost of the great Andean platform complexes and one of the highest urban centers ever, was built near the ancient south shoreline of Lake Titicaca around 2400 BP. It grew to cover 4 square kilometers and house from 25,000 to 40,000 people. The central monument precinct covers twenty hectares and is laid out on a cardinal direction oriented grid. The enormous Akapana mound is 200 meters long per side and stands 15 meters tall. Its 10,000 kilograms of stones were quarried at 100 kilometers distance and transported via the lake. The Tiwanaku survival strategy augmented the Andean agropastoral adaptation with a combined raised bed and canal shoreline agriculture system that mediated frosts, effectively extending the growing season and increasing yields. Tiwanaku culture became the largest Andean regional integration and enjoyed an unprecedented longevity of 1400 years. Tiwanaku's decline around 1000 BP. coincided with abandonment of the raised bed-canal agriculture system, probably due to a natural lowering of the Altiplano's rainfall and the consequent lowering of the basin's great lake.

During the First or Early Intermediate Period (2200-1400 BP.), an era characterized by many polities and distinct regional ceramics, the Moche culture rose to become the largest settlement of the north coast of Peru and the first archaic state to establish hegemony over part of the northern Andean demographic area. During this era fortifications and hilltop bastions appear. The Moche constructed the largest Andean adobe structure, the Huaca del Sol, one of the two or three largest South American monuments.



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The Olmec horizon, the first in North America to evidence the complexities associated with civilization and organized polities, is known from Mesoamerica and concentrated around the southern Gulf of Mexico. Olmec cultural attributes include a mound-plaza-stelae complex, calendar conventions, and glyphic writing with both iconographic and stylistic symbolic components. Megalithic sculpted solid rectangular monoliths and massive stone heads (hallmarks of the Olmec) adorned their mound complexes. Dated from 3500 to 2900 BP., San Lorenzo, an extensive earthen mound complex, is the oldest of the Olmec centers. La Venta follows in chronological sequence with radio-carbon dates from 2900 to 2400 BP. Basalt for the megalithic La Venta sculptures was transported sixty miles from the Tuxtla mountains. Tres Zapotes followed La Venta as the principal Olmec center. These Olmec centers had very similar site orientations and reflect overall planning and design, possibly extending to regional considerations

Contemporaneous centers outside the Olmec heartland which share Olmec cultural attributes have been termed Olmecoid, although they are generally regarded as parallel developments. Sites as distant as Poverty Point evidence interaction with the Olmecs. In the highland Oaxaca Valley, San Jose Mogote, a village site with a large mound surmounted with public architecture, grew to a population of 1000 persons before being supplanted in importance around 2500 BP. by Monte Alban, where a large pyramid containing 300 carved stone panels with Olmecoid features was constructed. Oaxaca valley settlement numbers and sizes increased significantly between 2500 and 2200 BP. Walls were built around Monte Alban. Around this pyramid-plaza-stelae complex capped mountaintop a city grew to cover over one square kilometer and house an estimated population of 25,000 to 30,000. Occupation ceased after 1300 BP

Simultaneous to Monte Alban numerous other large centers developed with the same essential features as the earlier Olmec model; mounds, pyramids, plazas and stelae constituting a public precinct and community center. At the same latitude as San Lorenzo at El Mirador in the Peten region two large adjoining architectural complexes were developed during the period from 2300 to 1750 BP. Plazas, platforms, public buildings, causeways and large elaborate, stucco and paint decorated pyramids, including the 180 foot high Tigre Pyramid, were built. Archaeoastronomers report that site architectural geometry of Mesoamerican mound-pyramid assemblages integrates alignments and orientations determined by the horizon azimuth of calendrically significant astronomical positions or events. The El Mirador group is termed an E Group, so named after the type, Group E, at Uaxactun. This assemblage type employs a building surmounted foresight construct to symmetrically frame east horizon extreme rise positions.

The most significant and by far the largest population center in prehistoric North America was Teotihuacan. Built in the Mexico Valley, the largest single expanse of flat agricultural land in highland Mexico, Teotihuacan, by 1450 BP., grew to a 22 square kilometer urban center of more than 100,000 persons. Teotihuacan influence is evidenced as faraway as Northern Mexico and the Mayan centers of Kaminaljuyu and Tikal. At Teotihuacan neighborhoods evidence ethnicity. Craft and manufacturing specializations were also neighborhood centered.

The second largest pyramid of the Americas was the central focus of Teotihuacan. The monumental Pyramid of the Moon and the greatest number of pyramids at any one site surround the more massive Pyramid of the Sun. Other population centers in the Mexico Valley contain less than 5000 persons while Teotihuacan was a truly cosmopolitan center. Arts and architecture witnessed a significant florescence and a distinctive Teotihuacan style evolved. Ceramics, mural arts and stone sculptures were decorated with unique pictographic representations and iconography.

The centrality of San Lorenzo at the Olmec Horizon or Teotihuacan during its centuries of fluorescence seems beyond dispute. El Mirador, Monte Alban, Tres Zapotes and sites like El Pital, Izapa or Kaminaljuyu, all significant regional centers during their epoch, were far larger than contemporaneous nearby communities. In the Mexico Valley in Teotihuacán's heyday this ratio was more than 100,000 to less than 5,000. The broad implication is that the centers serve a regional function and have support from surrounding communities, a sort of emergent federalism or unification of polities.

A definitive understanding of the nature, purposes, functions and organizational complexities of the American Mound-Pyramid-Plaza-Monument complex and centers seems wanting. Sumerians had monumental locus architecture as did the Indus civilization and many other early Old World centers. Somehow this trait is part of Native American cultural expression also. The similarities of a broadly defined mound complex in diverse regions of the world are difficult to ignore. Such cultural features imply diffusion, especially in proximate, temporally sequential instances. Seeing similarities between Chinese and Mexican stepped pyramids and city plans, between Native American and Asian monument precincts, or between the earliest South American monuments and early Sumerian monuments poses questions about relationships and diffusion between remote regions. These questions, given our present paradigms, are easy to ignore and difficult to address, at least in a definitive way.

History and prehistory are multidimensional, having spatial and temporal dimensions. In the case of prehistory the planet is minuscule relative to the time dimension. Even the average person's life is very long relative to the amount of time required to canoe, for example, from the Yellowstone headwaters to the upper reaches of the Amazon drainage. With this view in mind there should be little doubt that long distance interaction and diffusion was possible even if exceedingly infrequent. If there is a connection or remote common antecedent to the use of similar mound complexes careful research and study of these features should reveal that interconnectedness.

Such a study can begin with the spatial interrelationships of complexes and within the individual complexes. Is there a reason why San Lorenzo and El Mirador are located within a mere fortieth of a degree of the same latitude? Is the slight difference in the latitude due to a difference in temporal founding? These are complex questions and they require formulations that take into account temporal variables that effect the geometry of the events and of the azimuths that are found to be causal in the E Group assemblage. If San Lorenzo and El Mirador were located at a specific latitude for the same reason might that reason be that the angle of the lunar major rise azimuths at that latitude equals one-sixth of circumference. While it does today it did not at the time of construction. Latitude is a less variable property of place than is illumination angle. Were Poverty Point and Babylon situated at a distance of one radian from the pole with intentionality? A comprehensive archaeogeodesic study would answer some of the questions posed.

Mesoamerican Archaeoastronomy -- Teotihuacan Mural Art

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Beginning about 3,000 years ago, at the time of the introduction of maize in the American Southwest, the Tehuacan sequence shows a diminution in the consumption of meat concurrent with the advent of orchards and irrigation. Teosinte, the Mexican ancestor of modern maize (Zea mays) is a weedy pioneer that thrives in disturbed areas as well as the only large-seeded wild grass in tropical America. MacNeish's Tehuacan sequence demonstrated the gradual increasing corncob size of maize through time beginning about 6,000 years ago.

Villages consisting of pit houses dating to 2,000 BP. are known in various Southwest locations with larger villages including special function community structures. Snaketown, on Arizona's Gila River, was the largest of such early villages in the Sonoran Desert region. Irrigation agriculture with extensive, well-engineered canal systems supported these villages in the hot, low elevation desert. Around 1,400 BP. population markedly increased, particularly on the Phoenix Basin's low alluvium plane where irrigation networks were expanded to the environmental limit. Low rectangular platform mounds, ballcourts and above-ground, rectangular architecture of adobe or rammed earth were built, including multi-storied buildings.

Native Americans also used a strategy of floodwater farming, especially on the Southwest's Colorado Plateau, a high elevation ecological zone. In this region above ground, rectangular room architecture of layered stone masonry was adopted by 1,300 BP. After 1100 BP. large room clusters housing as many as 1,000 persons were constructed. These "pueblos" combined rectangular rooms and circular features called "kivas". Typically plans included a great kiva, a community function great room. More than 100 planned towns were built. In Chaco Canyon a dozen great pueblos of hundreds of rooms each occur at the center of an extensive road system of irradiating straight lines. Chaco Canyon was the largest center in the Puebloan culture area.

Irrigation agriculture has capacitated settlement and population advance in otherwise unsuitable ecological niches again and again in diverse regions, from Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Indus to Teotihuacan and the Peruvian coast. After repeated sustained success elsewhere the strategy was introduced in the American Southwest desert, probably from Central Mexico together with the Native American cultigen triad; maize, beans and squash. As happened elsewhere, population expanded to fill the niche created. The continued success of irrigation is contingent on climate and when the rains fail so does the system. This effect is very clearly evidenced around 700 BP. when a 25 year drought devastated the Southwest. Numerous communities were abandoned and populations shifted. Another factor affecting irrigation system sustainability is soil salination, a question of particular applicability to modern communities whose large populations are very dependent on irrigation. Salination is exacerbated in high evaporation climates and by extensive canal systems because salts become more concentrated.

The Chaco phenomena, with so many planned communities and a road system evidencing community interrelationships, is a unique cultural manifestation. The great quantity of well preserved stone masonry ruins and ample ceramic remains are a truly significant archaeological resource base. The parameters of Puebloan culture are clearly outlined by the range of their unique architecture. Without canal irrigation their survival strategies were more responsive to climatic fluctuations. Their intraregional migrations and other responses to climate shifts are well evidenced. Tree ring dating has allowed very exactive dating of Puebloan construction sequences. Few regions in the world can boast such a valuable archaeological manifestation. Also of value to the pursuit of archaeology is the close temporal proximity to the present of the Puebloan period. Populations that are direct descendants of the Puebloan still live in the same area, conserve identifiably similar cultural traits and employ the same adaptations to survive the harsh ecology. This is perhaps the most unique asset of Plateau archaeology in that it allows consideration of intangibles not evidenced no matter how rich and well preserved the archaeological remains.

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1. Fifteen thousand years ago in a span of several decades a dramatic shift in global weather brought a rapid end to the cold, glacial Pleistocene epoch. Something punctuated tens of thousands of years of equilibrium in the hydrosphere; glaciers began melting and ocean rose from over 300 feet below present levels, inundating vast coastal regions and exposing expansive new tracts of land. Nearly all life in the temperate regions would have faced intense adaptive pressures. During the Ice Age the most hospitable habitations were concentrated in the tropics or around the margins of the warm oceans. Most human populations probably moved and readapted at least once as ecologies changed and oceans rose. Ramifications of the climate shift, like extinction of large game animals, had an impact on human resource exploitation patterns. Some human population groups may have been extincted. The end of the Ice Age set off immense natural cataclysmic events such as the Bonneville flood, when an ice dam broke unleashing 500 cubic miles of water and destroying the entire Lower Columbia River Valley. The impact of this period of intense transitions for humanity is aptly expressed in the survival of flood epics in so many now disparate mythologies.

2. Eleven thousand years ago the single greatest transition in human adaptation began. Perhaps an outgrowth of the tremendous natural transition imposed by climate change at the end of the Ice Age, human interaction with resource life forms took on a new dimension; the manipulation, cultivation, care, propagation and controlled harvest of food species, a transition from gross exploitation to a mutual symbiosis resulting from human manipulation and interventions. What has proven the most significant result of this transition is the potential for population expansion far beyond the previous carry capacity of the hunter-gatherer strategy. A reef of natural circumscription had been breached by modifying nature and for millennia to follow successful agricultural adaptations to many diverse regions led to vastly increased populations and the consequent development of civilizations the world around.

3. Fifty one hundred years ago Narmer of Hierakonpolis united Upper and Lower Egypt into a single political kingdom, ushering in an age of relative political stability and continuity that endured for nearly three millennia. An enduring civilization was born and to this day the splendors of Egypt are a model admired far and wide. This important early consolidation was recorded on stone carvings that have survived to this day. The Egyptian state was larger than neighboring Mesopotamia, more stable, and without the rural abandonment and walled nucleated urban centers that characterize the lower Tigris-Euphrates Valley. With an extremely fertile floodplain reenriched annually by flooding and a perfectly suitable climate for crops the Nile Valley produced a resource base stability unparalleled in most other parts of the world. Coincident to the Egyptian unification widespread irrigation works were developed and hieroglyphic writing was employed. The productive ecology of the Nile Valley, the river as a reliable means of transport and the circumscription by an extensive desert defined the Egyptian state and contributed to centralization. Military threats to Egyptian society may have motivated measures to centralize power in order to strengthen defense.

4. From 2700 to 2200 BP. China experienced increased urbanism with larger, more nucleated walled cities, inter-polity warring and consequent political instabilities. Large irrigation works enabled rapid increases in population, with Gad-to, the largest center, growing to more than a quarter million persons. In this milieu, before 2200 BP., the Qin kingdom monarch Shih Huang Ti conquered surrounding kingdoms and by military coercion enforced a unification of China into an imperial kingdom with himself as self appointed emperor. Shih Huang Ti dictated a series of changes and reforms; he forced 100,000 important families to relocate to the imperial center of Xianyong thereby altering and weakening local feudal control and concentrating power in the capital, he completed the Great Wall thereby cordoning in the taxpaying peasantry, he raised an army of nearly one million persons and he persecuted proselytism of Confucian thought. Legal structures were codified, writing and characters were standardized, roads and canals were built and vast numbers of people were employed in the construction of a city of monuments that included the emperor's tomb. Although his seemingly despotic and militaristic dynasty was short lived, it did bequeath the accomplishment of a unification grander in scale and numbers than any before witnessed. The succeeding Han dynasty ruled the world largest state, a new nation of more than fifty million persons, in relative stability for 400 years.

5. If ever an apogee in cultural conflict occurred it was the meeting of the American and European worlds after the 1492 Spanish landfall. Numerous civilizations were destroyed, populations were decimated, a vast store of knowledge was lost, numerous languages were extincted, the wealth of two continents was looted and their peoples enslaved in the wake of adventurer Cristobal Colon's discovering the transatlantic route to the lands east of China. A handful of illiterate, mercenary, militarily advanced conquerors quickly followed the Spanish Crown's first expedition in a greedy search for wealth. In their wake cities were destroyed, populations of millions were genocidally exterminated or enslaved. Multitudes were enslaved in mines until death.

Millennia of warfare had shaped the Eastern hemisphere where the most advanced technologies of the day were applied to defense and weapons. In contrast in the Americas the technologies of metal crafting were employed in the creation of art works. The Western hemisphere was settled at a late date and consequently population pressures occurred at a much later date. Warfare in the Euro-Asian mould did not evolve in the Americas. Additionally , the European invaders had a religious mind set and legal codes that readily allowed the dispossession of discovered lands. Their religion and codified laws supported and allowed enslavement and property seizure of infidels that did not immediately accept their belief system and assert loyalty to the European based government of the Spanish monarch. The Europeans did not accept the equal humanity of groups they encountered. When all the important persons of Cholula gathered in the plaza to greet the arrival of Cortez and the other first Europeans, Cortez and his party of well equipped soldiers, in a few moments of frenzied murder and bloody mayhem, slaughtered every one of those present without a single loss to their own forces, thereby decapitating an entire society. The Spaniards again and again repeated this tactic to conquer new territories and enslave the population of commoners, thereby enriching themselves, the Crown and their church.

It would take more than a book to fully elucidate the effects of centuries of European invasion and conquest in the Americas. Perhaps what best epitomizes the transitions set in motion and the extent of transformation is the present day language composition of the Americas, where four European languages predominate today. The degree to which Euro-Americans today respect and honor the surviving Native cultures is epitomized by the number that speak an American language. Another example of the continuing ethnocentric disparity is the reservation system where surviving enclaves of Native Americans were imprisoned on marginal land. How many millions of lives were lost in the first centuries of contact? This question certainly falls within the parameters of archaeology and is deserving of continued study.

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Buried cities and abandoned settlements dot the earth. Time and again powerful cities, large states, regionally integrated societies and military and economic empires have arisen and declined. Complex, territorially expansive societies are difficult and costly to maintain. Powerful, centralized systems can be unresponsive or slow to adapt to changing conditions. Hypercohesion, population growth, decreasing soil fertility, soil salination, climate variation, rainfall fluctuations and resource base depletion or extinction are considered causal factors in the decline of societies. Overpopulation, circumscription and resultant scarcity disrupt orderly community functioning. Conditions like malnutrition negatively influence productivity and behavior. Hostility, population nucleation and fortification construction are costly inefficiencies that result from and exacerbate existent states of stress.

Stratification, warfare specialists and legal code enforcement specialists and other non-productive special function castes such as religious orders can all be costly taxations of the overall survival system. Privileged social strata, especially when inherited, can out pace population expansion of the supporting productive population, compounding system inefficiencies. Stasis in the forms and institutions of community organization while populations, ecologies or intercommunity relations radically alter can result in maladaptations.

The earth changes; lakes recede, oceans rise, glaciers melt, drought occurs, deserts arise and forests recede or advance. Human response to these events isn't always adequate for the continuance of the preexisting order. Populations sometimes need to migrate to survive. Adaptations are not always possible nor necessarily sufficient when the conditions of the surrounding ecology and resource base are altered. Typically these are circumstances beyond the control of humans.

Human adaptations such as political institutions, storage regimens, agricultural systems management, and community social order are not beyond our control, yet these factors also lead to collapse. Time and again societies have myopically expanded to beyond the carry capacity of their resource base. It seems that control of reproduction and concerns for general welfare are not always merged; the one being an individual prerogative and the other the concern of the community and its political entities. Social systems and persuasive influence are needed to avert such problems. In some societies there are separations and inherent conflicts between religious institutions and the institutions representing the interests of society in general. When several religious groups encourage large families, perhaps in a competition of numbers, each is doing a general disservice to both the population as a whole and their own members. In not taking a long term view of the consequences of such belief systems even the basic principles of the belief system can be inadvertently undermined when overpopulation results in social disorder

Warfare, the most common result of societies in crisis with resource base depletion and other forms of survival threats is another myopic cultural expression. Warfare is only employed when human groups view themselves and their own particular interests as separate from or overriding of the interests of another segment of humanity. Time and again the same response to circumscription has occurred. Warfare is always self-defeating if one views the results from the perspective of the entire human community without separation of that community into diverse sectors or interests.

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Excepting verbal communication and individual memory, the capacity to record and store information, especially precise records or exact quotations, has a very short history. Phonetic alphabet use arose in Mesopotamia only 3400 years ago and is only just now becoming a universal capability applied to most existent languages. The original meaning and import of mythologies can be obfuscated by our present mind set and world view. Records and histories have often been destroyed or simply fallen victim to the ravages of time. Simply put, we have lost most of history. Our lives, our existence, our well being, even the foods that sustain us are all contingent on past events, inventions and adaptations. To fully understand who, what and where we are today we need to know to the extent possible what came before. This applies equally to the individual and to societies.

I grew up with a sense of detachment from the contemporary dominant culture of the United States and without a strong cultural identity. As a young adult with a curiosity about the world I had not experienced I had my first opportunities to explore the planet. The Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico was my first great educational experience about other peoples and their lifeways. Thenceforth I was interested in archaeology and ethnology.

I moved to the Peruvian altiplano after completing Spanish language study in Mexico and began a job in the Ministry of Agriculture carrying out the decrees and orders of the ruling revolutionary military junta, including taking part in the Agrarian Reform process of seizing haciendas and reinstating indigenous ownership. I was surrounded by and visited ruins like Pucara, Sillustani, Tiwanaku, Pisaq, Ollantaytambo and Cuzco. Stories of ancient civilizations and their grandeur were common. I walked an ancient Inca highway when I went trout fishing. Everywhere in the country ruins evidencing the past dotted the landscape. Archaeology supplied information useful in better understand my surroundings and the antecedents that shaped the culture I lived and worked in. The American archaeology I experienced, in part, connects me to the total landscape of past humanity, enriching what it means to be human. Archaeology is what 'ties me back' (as in the Latin 'religare') to my roots.

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Accumulation, storage for future use.
Acheulean, a Lower Paleolithic assemblage of hand axes and tools (scrapers, cleavers, burins and borers) such as found at the type locality of St. Acheul in northern France.
Agropastoral, a human adaptation strategy combining shepherding of domesticated animals and cultivation of food crops.
Puebloan, a cultural designation applied to prehistoric people of the Colorado Plateau, particularly to those people following the region's ceramic horizon (the antecedent population is termed Basketmaker though they represent a continuous population) and prior to the arrival of the Dineh population. The Puebloan are thought to have spoken an Uto-Aztecan family languages. Hopi and Zuni populations are considered direct descendants of the Puebloan.
Anatomically, in reference to evolution physical alterations as opposed to cultural changes and adaptations.
Anthropomorph, a figure or depiction in the form of or approaching the form of a human, combining a largely human-like figure with other iconographic elements.
Archaeoastronomy, the field of scientific inquiry related to astronomy in the prehistoric period; the practice of astronomy utilizing prehistoric methods.
Archaeogeodesy, a proposed field of scientific inquiry combining ancient and fundamental astronomy, geodetic knowledge, applied mathematics, accurate positional data, surveying, cartography and archaeology. Archaeogeodesy encompasses inquiry into prehistoric place determination, point positioning, navigation (on land and water), astronomy, and measure and representation of the earth and geodynamic phenomena.
Assemblage, the sum of artifacts and remains characteristic of a site, a period within a site or number of sites, or of a specific group.
Bipedalism, the form of locomotion characteristic of humans and birds.
Circumscription, the quality of being surrounded by, bounded by or enclosed by a border or boundary, either natural or human determined.
Clovis, a type of fluted projectile point adapted for big game hunting and use with the spearthrower, a cultural identifier associated with the Clovis point.
Cultigen, a variety of plant not known in the wild, originating from human effect.
Cultivation, strategies and practices that enhance development and growth of crops, such as soil preparation and tillage, weed control and irrigation, the act of caring for crops, the husbandry and management of land to agricultural ends.
Diaspora, the spread of a population from an origin point to many other areas with a consequent increase in population.
Dentition Study, the comparison of dental remains.
Diffusion, the spreading outward of something; an invention, a cultural pattern or a people.
Ecosystem, the diverse forms, forces and types of habitat that are found in the environment, particularly their interrelationships.
E Group, a complex architectural assemblage of building or pyramid constructs on an east west axis and set so that from the western structure at a key position like a central doorway or inner space the eastern construct symmetrically frames the rise positions of astronomic bodies, typically of the sun.
Engineering, designing, planning and construction of technically difficult tasks, the feat of putting complex knowledge and understandings to practical application in exactive, skillful fashion.
Evolution, change over time in living organisms resulting from survival selection.
Heterogeneous, composed of unrelated, unlike or differing parts or elements; varied in structure, quality, design or style.
Horizon, a temporal designation typically assigned to cultures and assemblages and referencing the time of their appearance.
Hypercohesion, interconnected, organized or united more than normal; of societies, being too complex, organized to the extent of counter productivity.
Indigenous, having arisen in, adapted to, or occupied for a long term a specific region or ecology. Intangibles, in the context of archaeology things not readily manifested by physical remains, such as customs and beliefs.
Interglacial, a warm period of about 10,000 years punctuating an ice age.
Intihuatani, a monument form of the Andean civilization area consisting of a bedrock stone carved to relieve a short round or square erect column, probably functioning as a survey mark or place reference point.
Linguistics, the study of languages and their evolution and relationships.
Maritime, pertaining to the sea, applied to large bodies of water such as oceans and the largest lakes.
Megafauna, large animal species common during the Pleistocene and adapted to colder conditions prevalent in temperate latitudes during that era.
Mesopotamia, the fertile flood plain of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers of Southwest Asia, situated at an approximate colatitude of one radian and circumscribed by hot desert.
Mythology, verbally recorded ancient histories and stories that communicate aspects of human origins and history or prehistory.
Neanderthal, a variety of Homo sapiens (H. sapiens, neanderthalensis) characterized by large cranial capacity, short, stout, powerful physique, heavy bones and features and adaptation to cold climates.
Polity, the locus of a government, the site of an instituted political organization, the people, constructs and area appertaining thereto, a political organization.
Pueblo, an architectural construct containing kivas and numerous rooms and characteristic of the Puebloan culture of the Colorado Plateau beginning about 1100 BP.
Reciprocity, a relationship of mutual exchange to the benefit of all participants.
Salination, the accumulation of salts, alkali metals and magnesium in soils as a result of prolonged irrigation.
Standardization, the employment of similar conventions to the benefit of system efficiency, as in the use of the same size and weight conventions in commerce or the fabrication of interchangeable components for use in construction.
Statehood, political organization encompassing a region and a number of communities, typically hierarchically organized, internally specialized and intended to be temporally persistent.
Stela, -lae, a carved monument, typically erected vertically and sometimes erected at regular calendar intervals or at specific important positions.
Stratification, of human societies, layered and classified into status groups by birth, wealth, knowledge or power.
Superimposition, something placed or built on top of or over something else; in mound building to encase a previous structure with an amplifying, updated structure, effectively enclosing and preserving the prior episode of construction.
Survey, the activity of measure of and/or layout of an area for the purpose of specific human utilization, the application of geometry to the measure and utilization of land.
Tectonic Uplift, the effect of crustal motion induced by gravitation and core magma motion resulting in elevation increase.
Temporality, the quality of lasting for a period of time.
Transposition, to move from one place to another. The transplantation of an organism to a new ecology or locality.
Upper Paleolithic, the period of time between the two most recent interglacials characterized in the archaeological record by the advent of fully modern humans ranging from South Africa to Europe, Asia and Australia.

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