Déjà Vu all over again: America and Europe

In terms of social organization and technology, it seems to me that Mesolithic Europeans (around 10,000 years ago) were like archaic Amerindians before agriculture.  Many Amerindians on the west coast were still like that when Europeans arrived – foragers with bows and dugout canoes.

On the other hand,  the farmers of Old Europe were in important ways a lot like English settlers: the pioneers planted wheat, raised pigs and cows and sheep,  hunted deer, expanded and pushed aside the previous peoples, without much intermarriage.  Sure, Anglo pioneers were literate, had guns and iron, were part of a state, all of which gave them a much bigger edge over the Amerindians than Old Europe ever had over the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and made the replacement about ten times faster – but in some ways it was similar. Some of this similarity was the product of historical accidents: the local Amerindians were thin on the ground, like Europe’s Mesolithic hunters – but not so much because farming hadn’t arrived (it had in most of the United States), more because of an ongoing population crash from European diseases.

On the gripping hand, the Indo-Europeans seem to have been something like the Plains Indians:  sure, they raised cattle rather than living off abundant wild buffalo, but they too were transformed into troublemakers by the advent of the horse. Both still did a bit of farming. They were also alike in that neither of them really knew what they were doing:  neither were the perfected product of thousands of years of horse nomadry.  The Indo-Europeans were the first raiders on horseback, and the Plains Indians had only been at it for a century, without any opportunity to learn state-of-the-art tricks from Eurasian horse nomads.

The biggest difference is that the Indo-Europeans won, while the Plains Indians were corralled into crappy reservations.

It turns out that all those Amerindians shared a fair amount of ancestry with the original Indo-Europeans (ANE, Sibermen), but that’s probably part of some cosmic joke for which we are the punchline.

 

 

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102 Responses to Déjà Vu all over again: America and Europe

  1. MawBTS says:

    The question for me is; why were the Indo-Europeans so successful at domesticating stuff, when the Indians weren’t?

    There were horses in North America, before they all got eaten. And I don’t see how bison are scarier than the aurochs. It’s not like Australia, where the megafauna sucked ass – the Indians had raw material to work with. Yet nearly EVERY instance of domestication happened in the old world.

    Why?

    • eurogenes says:

      The steppe is close to the Fertile Crescent, where farming first started.

      • MawBTS says:

        Now that I think of it, the few animals domesticated in the new world (llamas, turkeys, muscovy ducks), were all in zones that had agriculture. The only animals domesticated by hunter gatherers were dogs…which were brought across the Bering strait from the old world, I believe?

      • Jim says:

        I think that most of the ungulates in the Andes were domesticated. But they didn’t have manyto start with.

      • Jim says:

        The Southwestern US cultural zone had fairly extensive trade contacts with Meso-America. As is well-known it was the principal source of turquoise which was highly prized in Meso-America.

        • Campesino says:

          There are artifacts of copper and rubber found in Hohokam sites in Arizona. There are numerous examples of macaw feathers and macaws in sites all over the Southwest. Recently, ceramic vessels from Chaco Canyon in New Mexico when tested, were found to have traces of chocolate.

          All trade items coming north from Mesoamerica

    • Dale says:

      Jared Diamond’s take is that the advantage in Eurasia is a very long east-west distance, so there is a very large zone with about the same climate. Africa and the Americas run more north-south, which makes it hard to transport your domesticated ecosystem to new parts of the continent.

      • Jim says:

        The Andean cultural zone is much more elongated north to south than Meso-America but wasn’t all that much behind Meso-America in the level of it’s development.

      • BurplesonAFB says:

        Just so. North America at the latitude of the plains and great east coast forests is a hell of a lot wider than the Yucatan or the highlands of Peru and yet everything happened in the later two areas and basically nothing in the former.

        Compare the width of the continent at those latitudes where the pre-Columbian civilizations sprouted up with Africa.

        Generally the folks that are going to figure things out will figure things out (adopt agriculture, husbandry, writing).

        • Jim says:

          The Mound Building Cultures of the Eastern US are interesting and deserve a lot more investigation. They were of course far below Meso-Ameica or the Andean zone which were far below Eurasian cultures.

        • Jim says:

          Central America actually has a pretty large amoung of East-West elongation. The Yucatan is foughly south of New Orleans while Venezuela is well east of Florida. Mexico City is roughly south of San Antonio and Panama City is east of Miami

          • syon says:

            “Central America actually has a pretty large amoung of East-West elongation. The Yucatan is foughly south of New Orleans while Venezuela is well east of Florida.”

            Venezuela is not in Central America; it’s in South America

          • Jim says:

            The border of Venezuela and Panama is well east of Florida. I never said that Venezuela was in Central America. You misunderstood me.

          • syon says:

            “The border of Venezuela and Panama is well east of Florida. I never said that Venezuela was in Central America. You misunderstood me.”

            Venezuela does not border Panama

          • Jim says:

            Yes you’re right. Replace “Venezuela” in what I said above by “Columbia”. Thanks.

          • aandrews says:

            If you overlaid them, he means.

      • Patrick Boyle says:

        Diamond is a professor of geography so we shouldn’t be surprised that he devises a geographical argument as his principal thesis. His ‘continental axis’ idea is ingenious but it is quite inadequate if you think about it for a moment.

        Diamond is desperate to establish that tropical people are just as smart as the Europeans who took over the world starting about 500 years ago. His answer is in the title of the book : guns, germs and steel. But also the orientation of your continental axis.

        Hart has another thesis – people who evolved in the north got smart and they stayed smart when they later moved south. Diamond never mentions intelligence. He refuses to believe any people are smarter than any other people. His ‘continental axis’ ideas is that if you live where there is a long distance to he next ocean east to west, then good things will just come to you. Things like domesticated plants and animals.

        Mainland Asia is indeed wider than Panama. But in general Africa is wider than the Americas except in the very far north. If this theory had any predictive power, sub-Saharan Africa would have had advanced civilizations not the various Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs who developed in very narrow Mexico. Hart points out that the Amerindians were descended from Siberians whereas the Africans had always been tropical.

        Anyway the real opening of the gap between Europeans and New Guinea natives in their capacity to produce ‘cargo’ is rather recent. It grew huge in the last five hundred years long after the ‘continental axis’ effect would have taken place. The ‘continental axis’ effect such as it is was an effect related to the ‘Neolithic Revolution’.

        The ‘continental axis’ idea may help us understand why wheat went from the fertile crescent to Harappa but the vast differences in the ability to create ‘cargo’ is a phenomenon of the Industrial Revolution not the Neolithic. England never moved its location.

        • DrBill says:

          Diamond never mentions intelligence.

          Course he does. He says that New Guineans are smarter than Europeans because New Guineans know which mushrooms are poisonous. And if you don’t find that argument convincing, then there’s no hope for you.

        • BurplesonAFB says:

          The ancient Sumerians had a more complex society than the PNG natives Diamond is so fond of. Sumerian “cargo” was greater and more impressive.

    • engleberg says:

      Nearly EVERY instance of domestication happened in the old world. Why?

      I’d be surprised if there weren’t giant cattle drives, going back to reindeer drives, in Central Asia, going back to the paleolithic. Like in Louis L’Amour, only from the Silk Road to the Danube. Be a while before we have data on every pile of lithic poo in Eurasia though.

      • Dale says:

        Moreover, nearly every instance of domestication of animals happened in the Old World outside of Africa. The explanations I’ve heard are (1) large animals in Africa evolved with humans and learned to fear them during our 200,000 hunting-and-gathering phase, and (2) when the first humans made it into the Americas they ate most of the large animals and/or that was the moment of a serious environmental disruption that killed most of the large animals.

      • Hipster says:

        Native Americans had their own cattle drives with the Bisons. They would burn the landscape so as to attract Bison into corridors where they were easy prey.

        Not exactly domestication but not bad either.

        • Jim says:

          It was difficult (not impossible) to hunt buffalo before the horse was available. Buffalo migration routes were not predictable and buffalo cannot be followed on foot.

    • Campesino says:

      There were horses in North America, before they all got eaten. And I don’t see how bison are scarier than the aurochs. It’s not like Australia, where the megafauna sucked ass – the Indians had raw material to work with. Yet nearly EVERY instance of domestication happened in the old world.

      Why?

      =============================

      Actually, there were llamas and camels as well as horses in North America in Paleoindian times. All died off/were killed off before they could be domesticated.

      Bison must be scarier than aurochs as we still haven’t domesticated them today. As far as that goes, the European bison (Bison bonasus) has never been domesticated either. If the Indo-Europeans were so “hot” at domestication, why didn’t they domesticate them?

      So what other “raw material” did Indians have to work with? Deer, moose, elk, pronghorn, big horn sheep? If the Indo-Europeans were so “hot” at domestication why didn’t they domesticate them or their equivalent species in Europe? About the only exception would be caribou, that did get domesticated in parts of Eurasia.

      • Richard Sharpe says:

        If the Indo-Europeans were so “hot” at domestication, why didn’t they domesticate them?

        Perhaps because, once you have domesticated sheep, goats, horses and cattle you don’t need to domesticate any more.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Horses, probably: other people domesticated sheep, goats, cattle

          • Richard Sharpe says:

            Yeah, I guess I was conflating a bunch of peoples.

            However, once you have domesticated what you need, why go to extra effort.

          • Jim says:

            Yes, I guess it was easier to kill off the buffalo and replace them with cattle than domesticate the buffalo. When I’ve eaten buffalo meat it tasted very much like beef to me.

        • Campesino says:

          Perhaps because, once you have domesticated sheep, goats, horses and cattle you don’t need to domesticate any more.

          ========================

          The point I was trying to make was the earlier commenter said Native Americans had “plenty” of species to work with to domesticate something and never did and comments that Indo-Europeans were great at domesticating species. Yet the Indo-Europeans never domesticated any of the equivalent species that he thinks the Native Americans could easily have domesticated.

          Can you spot a trend?

          This is also sort of a circular argument, saying they had already domesticated some species so why bother with more. If our earlier commenter is correct, why didn’t Indo-Europeans start with bison, deer, etc. that he says Native Americans should have domesticated?

          • Richard Sharpe says:

            Yet the Indo-Europeans never domesticated any of the equivalent species that he thinks the Native Americans could easily have domesticated.

            How do you know? How do you know what, say wild horses, or later the Aurochs (domesticated by others), were actually like before they were domesticated? Perhaps they were just like those species in North America.

            Your argument sounds to me like saying Sure, Europeans invented gunpowder weapons from around 1,200 on but they were pretty stupid for not coming up with nuclear weapons at that time since it was obviously possible.

          • Kate says:

            I’m inclined to accept the idea that domestication was a human evolutionary developmental stage during which time all the animals that could be domesticated, were; and luck was with the people living near animals that could be. People didn’t invent dogs, cattle and horses, they discovered them.

            Reindeer aren’t domestic even today. Domesticity involves controlling reproduction as I understand. If reindeer could be domesticated, would the pastoralists settle down? Possibly not since Mongolians didn’t and their animals are domesticable. Just thinking aloud. Dogs, horses, cattle…

          • Campesino says:

            Yet the Indo-Europeans never domesticated any of the equivalent species that he thinks the Native Americans could easily have domesticated.

            How do you know?

            ========================

            Because they never did.

  2. eurogenes says:

    What is it with you and the Sibermen?

    The original Indo-Europeans weren’t the Sibermen. They were far Eastern Europeans probably with a relatively high level of ANE.

    When Indo-European first formed on the steppe, these people were already a complex mix of Eastern European Hunter-Gatherer (EHG) and some sort of Arrmenian-like variation on the EEF theme.

    • John Hostetler says:

      Thanks for noticing this. I wish Greg would reply – I had wanted to ask him the same thing, but it’s 5 days later and once there’s a new post up…..

      Anyway, my feeling is that we’ll see more of this in Aryan studies. It’s partly a sentimental attachment to the rare and exotic (the ANE element is ‘rare’ as the smallest component of the overall Aryan genome of WHG:EEF:ANE, and exotic because it is more associated with northern and central Asia than with Europe).

      Then too, the political acceptability is greater in exact proportion. WHG are the sentimental ancestors of Western Europeans, even though we’re not a very different mix from the original Aryans themselves, so anything that puts genetic distance between WHG and Aryans, and geographic distance between Europe and the urheimat, is attractive to many, even to some who are fairly tough. Popularity is a force that is hard to resist unless one is the kind of person that would, oh I don’t know, use ‘Aryan’ where others would use ‘PIE.’

      On a possibly more objective basis, though it’s early days, I’m detecting a tendency among interested parties to associate the ANE strain with the moxie that helped fuel the Aryan expansion, and many associate that same moxie with sentimental favorites like the hunters of Beringia who first colonized the New World, and the more warlike of their descendants, eg the Sioux and Apache. Now that it seems reasonably certain that the ANE were the specific genetic commonality between Europeans and Amerindians, there is a real ‘that’s cool’ response – again, it puts a more politically acceptable face on the ferocity, and it may even have a degree of truth to it, via the moxie factor.

  3. dearieme says:

    Diamond said that African fauna weren’t domesticated because it was impossible to domesticate them. Someone pointed out that the Hottentots and Bantu in South Africa had domesticated nothing, nor had the Boers, but that within a short while of the British arriving they’d domesticated ostriches.

    Call me a wild speculator, but if horses hadn’t been able to survive in S Africa I’d think the Boers or the British would have domesticated zebras, or the like. The power of an idea, such as domestication, is remarkable. (Wasn’t it the power of an idea that gave the Cherokees a written language?) In fact the power of an idea is so strong that it’s hard to be confident that agriculture has been invented independently quite as often as anthropologists currently think.

    • BurplesonAFB says:

      http://shopkins-fossick.blogspot.ca/2011/03/taming-of-zebra.html

      Well, you can teach them to pull a cart through London, and that’s generation zero.

      • dearieme says:

        Brilliant. I only hope it’s true.

      • Sam says:

        Taming is not the same as domestication. Elephants can be tamed – but as far as I know, they have not been domesticated.

        • ChrisA says:

          Elephants seem pretty domesticated in South East Asia.
          But in any case domestication is just the selected breeding of animals to accumulate traits beneficial for humans. If the animal already has the necessary traits at the beginning, as perhaps the elephant does, then why further domesticate them?
          I would bet very strong amounts of money that a zebra population could be transformed into the equivalent of a horse by just a few generations of selected breeding for tameness. I am sure this is what happened with wild horse, at first they were just captured as livestock, basically keeping them captured for meat purposes, instead of eating them straight away. Then someone started breeding them for docility – this probably wasn’t intentional but angry horses get eaten first. After a while you have an animal that’s pretty tame by nature, and then you get the bright idea to use them as beast of burden.
          The main development that made this happen was future time orientation, you put effort into capturing a horse that you don’t need to eat straight away, because you know that you will need it later.

    • Jim says:

      The written script of Easter Island seems to have been invented after contact with Europeans. At least there is no unequivocal evidence of writing predating the first contact with Europeans. But it doesn’t seem to have taken much contact for the Easter Islanders to get the idea of writing and proceed to invent their own script.

  4. Dale says:

    True the early Europeans in North America (that is, the English and French, not the Spanish) had a state, but the state apparatus didn’t do a lot for the first 100 years as far as I can tell from history. There were a lot of very local conflicts with the Indians but it wasn’t until the 1700s that European states started serious military operations against them. And it took the Europeans 200 years to settle from the east coast to the Appalachians, compared to 100 years to reach from the Appalachians to the west coast. So the European advantage was fairly low until industrialization set in.

    • Jim says:

      European advantage vis-a-vis the Aztecs or Incas seems to have been very great from the first contact.

      • Campesino says:

        European advantage vis-a-vis the Aztecs or Incas seems to have been very great from the first contact.

        =====================

        You need to re-read the history of those encounters. It wasn’t so one-sided.

        The Spanish succeeded fairly quickly in Mexico (2-3 years) because they didn’t conquer the Aztecs by themselves. They led a rebellion of subject peoples of the Aztecs against them. Cortez had about 1500 of his own men and 200,000 Tlaxcalans and other Indian allies to fight about an equal number of Aztecs. And even then it wasn’t a walk-over. The Spanish had some very difficult scrapes. Later on they betrayed their Indian allies and take them over.

        If Cortez had had to fight a unified Aztec Empire only using his Spanish troops, he most likely would have failed, or at best have taken a very long time and reinforcements to get the job done.

        In Peru, Pizarro met a weakened Inca (Inka) Empire that had just concluded a nasty civil war. By capturing Atahualpa and peeling off some subject peoples (like Cortez did) Pizarro was able to control the central part of the empire in a few years. But with all their “advantages” it took the Spanish a very long time to get control of the whole area. It took them 40 years before they were able to defeat the last close relative who was a claimant to the Inca throne. The Spanish didn’t help themselves by indulging in a series of coups and civil wars among themselves (Pizarro was murdered in one of them) as to who was going to control the flow of gold & silver. Large swathes of the region were outside of their control until the 1570s. At the end, the Inca armies were supplemented by Spanish deserters (civil war losers) and used a fair amount of European arms.

        • dave chamberlin says:

          “You need to re-read the history of those encounters. it wasn’t so one sided.”

          You can’t be serious. Pizarro and 168 Spanish soldiers attacked the Inca empire with an estimated population of 16 million and won. I don’t want to get into a semantics argument with you or hash out the details, I just want to correct you on one point, it was insanely one sided. Ditto with Cortez in Mexico.

          • Campesino says:

            You can’t be serious. Pizarro and 168 Spanish soldiers attacked the Inca empire with an estimated population of 16 million and won. I don’t want to get into a semantics argument with you or hash out the details, I just want to correct you on one point, it was insanely one sided. Ditto with Cortez in Mexico.

            =======================

            If you don’t want to “get into a semantics argument or hash out the details” then you have no argument, you’re just stomping your foot.

            Let me repeat this slowly. Cortez with 1500 men and Pizarro with 168 didn’t conquer those empires by themselves. If they had tried, they would have failed. In each case they captured and held hostage the emperor and used the time they bought to lead rebellions of hundreds of thousands of subject peoples against the Aztecs and Incas. That is how they succeeded. Either empire could have drowned the Spanish in human wave attacks if the Spanish had been fighting without allies. Sixteenth century firearms don’t give you that much of an advantage once you are over the surprise factor

            And in Peru it still took the Spanish 40 years to totally oust the Inca and by the end of that time there were tens of thousands of Spanish and tens of thousands of their Indian allies required to do that. That is larger than 168. And it still took 40 years.

            Also your citing of 16 million is beside the point, as 80 to 85% of that number weren’t Inca – they were subject peoples who saw the Inca as oppressors. They bolted when the Spanish provided an opportunity

          • dave chamberlin says:

            I knew you would avoid my only point.

          • Toad says:

            could have drowned the Spanish in human wave attacks if the Spanish had been fighting without allies

            The problem with human wave attacks is you can only pack so many people in one place, which is why you need multiple waves. Only one wave can attack at a time while the other waves wait their turn. On a row of pawns on a chessboard facing off against one queen, only one pawn will be in front of the queen while the rest will be several squares away.

            The elite Spanish cavalry company, occupying a 50 yard front, invulnerable in their armor, and armed with guns, are going to be able to kill everything immediately in front of them, and the fact that there are tens of thousands occupying an area measured in miles doesn’t bring help to the ones being cut down. 80,000 in a 4 rank line shoulder to shoulder would be a line 9 miles wide.

            Battle of Cajamarca
            At the signal to attack, the Spaniards unleashed gunfire at the vulnerable mass of Incans and surged forward in a concerted action.

            The main Inca force, which had retained their weapons but remained “about quarter of a league” outside Cajamarca, scattered in confusion as the survivors of those who had accompanied Atahualpa fled from the square, breaking down a fifteen foot length of wall in the process.

            There is no evidence that any of the main Inca force attempted to engage the Spaniards in Cajamarca after the success of the initial ambush.

          • MawBTS says:

            In the Greg/Razib video, the topic is mentioned.

            http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/1999

            Greg says that the Spanish probably needed every single advantage they had against the Native Americans. That means technological superiority, shock and awe, native allies, and plague.

            It’s trendy to act like plague was the sole reason the American kingdoms fell. But imagine if 500 Tlaxcalan warriors had come ashore in Mexico, with some smallpox blankets in hand. Could they have successfully overthrown the Aztecs? I find it hard to think so.

            Steel weaponry and armor doesn’t confer superpowers, but it would have given the Spanish the edge in urban fighting in Tenochtitlan and Cuzco (where the number difference wasn’t as important). Crossbows, too. And neither the Aztecs or Incas were good at countering a massed caballero charge on an open plain.

          • Campesino says:

            I knew you would avoid my only point.

            ====================

            And what would that be?

        • Toad says:

          If Cortez had had to fight a unified Aztec Empire only using his Spanish troops, he most likely would have failed

          Virtually never in human history has there been that kind of political unity. There are always factions willing to side with an invader to get an advantage. Europeans rarely had a united front against Muslims (even during the Crusades they ended up sacking Constantinople).
          To imagine a united front against the Spanish is to imagine something that never happened in the course of human history. The Spanish had a small regiment of elite cavalry armed with technology thousands of years more advanced. Any faction, such as a claimant to the throne or resentful tributaries, allying with them would create an invincible army that would take over and rule. It would be impossible to imagine that someone wouldn’t want to be on the winning side.

          • Campesino says:

            To imagine a united front against the Spanish is to imagine something that never happened in the course of human history. The Spanish had a small regiment of elite cavalry armed with technology thousands of years more advanced. Any faction, such as a claimant to the throne or resentful tributaries, allying with them would create an invincible army that would take over and rule.

            =======================

            Hernando de Soto tried this approach in southeastern North America and failed miserably. He thought that if he could take over a chiefdom or two the other chiefdoms would flock to his side to “create an invincible army.” All he succeeded in doing was getting the other chiefdoms to unite against him.

            He won most of the battles he fought, but they were pyrrhic victories. His “invincible army” was gradually bled to death as they were constantly surrounded and attacked by hostile people.

            De Soto died of a fever. His remaining followers abandoned their horses and the Indian slaves they had taken, built boats and fled down the Mississippi

          • dearieme says:

            I remember the reported remark of an Indian historian when he was asked how relative handfuls of Britons had conquered India. “The British didn’t betray each other.” I expect the remark was really about the Indians.

          • Toad says:

            Hernando de Soto tried this approach in southeastern North America and failed miserably.

            He was searching for gold and colony sites, and yes, the land proved to be disappointing.

            He won most of the battles he fought,

            Hence the term “invincible”.

            His “invincible army” was gradually bled to death as they were constantly surrounded and attacked by hostile people.

            They got home alive and lost less than half (barely) of their men over a period 4 years.

            Being able to cause the enemy to gradually bleed to death over a period of years, but not destroy him, while you suffer grievous losses, and you are unable to prevent his movement in your territory, and you are unable to stop him from seizing supplies and prisoners from your villages, then yes, they are invincible.

            Vincing an army implies destroying it, routing it, or at least causing it to retreat from your territory. Attrition doesn’t count.

            They marched 4,000! miles with 620 men, in unexplored, hostile territory, out of supply and contact from home. The land was wilderness and forested and they were frequently ambushed by locals. In spite of resistance, they could go where they pleased, and could seize supplies and people at will.

            A company of 620 men, unaccompanied by native allied warriors, given a period of four years, lost 298 men, or one every five days. Pretty lopsided.

            De Soto died of a fever.

            He died of natural causes, as opposed to wounds from battle. Metal armor affords a big advantage.

            His remaining followers abandoned their horses and the Indian slaves they had taken, built boats and fled down the Mississippi

            They were marching their way home overland to Mexico, their exploration mission completed. While in Texas, the population of natives was so sparse, that they were unable to seize enough food. They backtracked to more populated Arkansas, and built boats on the Mississippi River to sail home. Typical of a military campaign, disease and starvation predominates.

          • Campesino says:

            Hernando de Soto tried this approach in southeastern North America and failed miserably.

            He was searching for gold and colony sites, and yes, the land proved to be disappointing.

            ===========================

            Really moving the goalposts here.

            De Soto was looking to replicate in North America what Cortez and Pizarro had done elsewhere using much the same tactics. It didn’t work.

            Trying to rewrite history to say he was just “popping in” to look around for good colony sites is just false. That wasn’t the charge de Soto had from the Spanish government. De Soto was named adelantado or governor. He was sent to take over the place and govern it.

            I would suggest you read “The De Soto Chronicles” (Clayton, Knight, and Moore eds. 1993) to get an understanding of what really happened and the circumstances under which the Spanish fled down the Mississippi.

            The “De Soto Chronicles” are translations of the Spanish accounts. In their own words, they were terrorized and helpless and knew if they didn’t get on those boats to get away they would be annihilated. As it was, they barely made it downriver past flotillas of war canoes that set out from the Louisiana shore. The Spanish abandoned all their material goods except weapons, all their horses, all their Indian slaves, and hundreds of Indian converts to Christianity who begged to be taken along.

            The survivors of the expedition judged it to be a complete failure as did the Spanish government. As has history

          • Toad says:

            @Campesino
            De Soto was looking to replicate in North America what Cortez and Pizarro had done elsewhere using much the same tactics. It didn’t work.

            Cortez and Pizarro were looking to plunder gold and silver. So was De Soto. He heard false stories from previous expeditions that there were natives with lots of gold. He was searching for them. Had any of natives in the area actually had any gold, he would have easily defeated them.


            @Campesino:
            He was sent to take over the place and govern it.
            The region consisted of innumerable small warring tribes not unlike modern Amazon rain forest, so it would be impossible to govern the region.

            In Arkansas, the most populated area, on the Mississippi, there was one friendly chief that hosted him in his village and supplied him. From a book written by one of the party, A Narrative of the expedition of Hernando de Soto, 1557:
            … came the [Chief] of Guachoya, … they went to the lodging of the [de Soto], and presented him their gifts, and the [chief] uttered these words: “Mighty and excellent lord, .. I came to see what your lordship will command me to do, that I may serve you in all things that are in my power.”


            @Campesino:
            they were terrorized and helpless and knew if they didn’t get on those boats to get away they would be annihilated.

            When they were marching home to Mexico, they crossed Texas, where there was not enough food to live off the land, so they had to go back to the Mississippi river, where there was food and build boats and sail home.

            About the decision to turn back:
            “It was a very poor country [Texas]: there was great want of maize in that place. … He traveled twenty days through a country evil
            inhabited, where they suffered great scarcity and trouble …

            the country that way was poor of maize, and toward the west there was no notice of any habitation…

            [de Soto] assembled the captains … to determine with their advice what they should do. … they thought it best to return back to [the Mississippi river] … because that in Nilco and thereabout was store of maize”

            The decision to turn back was controversial, some wanted continue on to find the “Seven Cities of Gold” of Cabeza de Vaca:
            “When that which was determined was published in the camp, there were many that were greatly grieved at it … they hoped to find some rich country … by that which Cabeza de Vaca had told the Emperor: and that was this: That … he saw gold and silver, and stones of great value. … it grieved many to go backward, which would rather have adventured their lives and have died in the land of Florida, than to have gone poor out of it


            @Campesino:
            As it was, they barely made it downriver past flotillas of war canoes that set out from the Louisiana shore.

            They lost 11 men out of 322 going down the Mississippi river, which is 3% losses.

            They were in canoes hastily constructed in the wilderness, and they sailed a distance equivalent to the length of Ireland in hostile territory and only suffered 3% losses.

            About the battle where those 11 losses occurred:

            The natives had:
            “an hundred canoes, among which were some
            that carried sixty and seventy men”

            Against 15 Spaniards:
            “The [commander] sent … fifteen armed men in canoes to make them give way.”

            Canoes overturned and drowned:
            “many [natives] leaped into the water to … to lay hold on
            the canoes of the Spaniards, and overwhelm them… The Christians fell into the water, and with the weight of their armor sunk down to the bottom”

            Natives in canoes can harass with arrows, but native bows are low power, and ineffective:
            “The Christians had mats to lay under them, which were double, and so close and strong, that no arrow went through them.”


            @Campesino:
            The Spanish abandoned all their material goods except weapons, all their horses, all their Indian slaves, and hundreds of Indian converts to Christianity who begged to be taken along.

            They had to sail the high seas in homemade boats, and didn’t have room for everyone and their drinking water:
            “they determined to dismiss all the men and women of the country … save some hundred…but when they came to the sea, they must send them away for want of water, because they had but few vessels.”

          • gcochran9 says:

            “elite cavalry”” = 13 horses.

        • Toad says:

          The New World wouldn’t be European dominated if it wasn’t for disease.

          They had gunpowder, although it wasn’t terribly useful in those days

          It’s trendy to act like plague was the sole reason the American kingdoms fell.

          Mesoamerica was the most populous, most civilized, and most militarily powerful region of all the Americas, and they were conquered very early on, before the epidemics started.

          Cortez landed in Mexico, which had little contact before, and epidemics hadn’t happened yet. He hit the ground running, made allies with a local tribe, got some auxillae from them, marched inland and fought a pitched battle against numerically superior Tlaxcalans and won, did some harrowing, and made them vassals, married into the nobility, and picked up more auxillae. This is pre-smallpox and the Spanish are defeating large armies in pitched battles and making vassals of the locals like Norman Ireland. I don’t see why this wouldn’t continue without smallpox.

          History of Hernando Cortez (1855)

          The force of Cortez consisted of four hundred Spaniards, fifteen
          horses, and seven pieces of artillery.

          The … Totonacs also fur-
          nished him with an army of two thousand three
          hundred men.

          Two chiefs who had
          been taken prisoners in the late battle stated
          that the force of the Tlascalans consisted of five
          divisions of ten thousand men each.

          the Tlascalans … rushed upon them like the on-
          rolling surges of the ocean.

          But soon the cannon was unmasked, … Ball and grape-shot
          swept through the dense ranks of the natives,

          Though hardly able, with their feeble weapons, to injure then adversaries, regardless of death, they filled up the gaps
          which the cannon opened in their ranks

          Immense multitudes of the dead now cover-
          ed the field, and many of the chiefs were slain.

          Every horse was wounded ; seventy Spaniards
          were severely injured ; one was dead, and near-
          ly all were more or less bruised.

          The commander-in-chief of the
          native army, finding it in vain to contend
          against these new and apparently unearthly
          weapons,- at last ordered a retreat.

          Their artillery and musketry kept the natives
          at a distance, and their helmets and coats of
          mail no native weapon could easily penetrate.

          As night enveloped … Cortez …
          sallied forth with the horse and a
          hundred foot, and four hundred of the native
          allies, and with fire and sword devastated six
          villages of a hundred houses each, taking four
          hundred prisoners

          During the night the Tlascalans had been re-
          ceiving re-enforcements, and when the first dawn
          of morning appeared, more than one hundred
          and forty-nine thousand natives, according to
          the estimate of Cortez, made a rush upon the
          camp. After a battle of four hours they were
          again compelled to retreat.

          Again … marched forth in the dark-
          ness, with his horse, one hundred Spanish in-
          fantry, and a large party of his allies, and set
          three thousand houses in flames

          The Tlascalans were now much dishearten-
          ed, and were inclined to peace.

          The commander-in-chief of the Tlascalan army, with a numerous retinue, entered the Spanish camp with proffers of sub-
          mission.

      • Dale says:

        I believe that the difference was in the mode of interaction. The Spanish conquered huge territories. As Campesino notes, this was helped by stimulating rebellion in subject peoples. But all imperial conquests have this feature — the bulk of the population is subjugated people (subjugated either to co-ethic rules or foreign rulers) and really doesn’t care a lot about who gets to be their new boss. So the Spanish really only had to fight the existing rulers. (“Guns Germs and Steel” goes into that battle in some detail.)

        But the North American mode of conquest required displacement of the entire indigenous population, and the entire indigenous population has strong incentives to resist. And the evidence is that in the 1600s and 1700s the Europeans didn’t have a decisive advantage in that contest, despite the decimation of the Indians due to their diseases. E.g., the Iriquois were a serious barrier to European expansion into the 1800s. But after 1800, the Europeans gained a decisive advantage, probably due to increasing industrialization (mass-produced firearms) and the ability of the consolidating European states to concentrate resources on fighting in small frontier areas. So the advance of the European frontier was far faster in the 1800s than in the 1600s and 1700s.

        • Jim says:

          Well of course there was a much greater numerical population advantage in the 1800’s as compared with the 1600’s.

        • Toad says:

          the Iriquois were a serious barrier to European expansion into the 1800s. But after 1800, the Europeans gained a decisive advantage,

          And also demographics. Population increasing and poor people willing to move to the forest, live in a log cabin, have a diet of deer and squirrels, and the only affordable headgear are racoons.

          • Campesino says:

            Population increasing and poor people willing to move to the forest, live in a log cabin, have a diet of deer and squirrels, and the only affordable headgear are raccoons.

            ========================

            The prospect of owning your own land was irresistible to most Euro-Americans and European immigrants of the era

      • Jim says:

        Compared to the time it took to conquer the lands of the Roman Empire the Spainish Conquest of their empire in the New World seems to have proceeded remarkably quickly.
        Wasn’t it pretty much over by 1580? If the weapons of the Conquistadors were not much superior to those of their Indian opponents the speed of the conquest was all the more remarkable.

    • Campesino says:

      True the early Europeans in North America (that is, the English and French, not the Spanish) had a state, but the state apparatus didn’t do a lot for the first 100 years as far as I can tell from history.

      ===============================

      Are you saying the Spanish Empire wasn’t a state?

      • Dale says:

        You ask, “Are you saying the Spanish Empire wasn’t a state?”

        No, I’m noting that while the Spanish were very successful at conquering areas in the Americas, the English and French were not so.

        • Campesino says:

          No, I’m noting that while the Spanish were very successful at conquering areas in the Americas, the English and French were not so.

          ===========================

          In Mexico and Mesoamerica, the societies the Spanish encountered were highly complex, socially stratified literate societies with a large peasant class ruled by a relatively small elite. It was similar in much of South America. It was very clear what the peasants owed in food, goods and labor to whom and had been that way for a long time. In most cases the Spanish were able to knock off the elites and took their place. Later, the Spanish changed these arrangements more to their own notions, but it allowed them to much more easily control large areas early on.

          In North America, the societies weren’t nearly so complex, at least at the time of the European arrival. Eastern North America was split into a mass of small, constantly squabbling and warring chiefdoms and the social structure wasn’t conducive to having a monolithic peasant class. You couldn’t displace the elite of a chiefdom and have it work as it did in Mexico or Peru. Hernando de Soto (actually one of Pizarro’s commanders) tried it in the Southeast in the late 1530s and into the 1540s and failed spectacularly. In a number of cases he took over the elite of a chiefdom only to find the size of the political unit wasn’t large enough to support him, and that the lower status population gradually melted away to other chiefdoms rather than deal with the Spanish. Rather than divide and conquer as had been done in Mexico and Peru, de Soto was such a threat that the chiefdoms were driven to unite against him. He paid with his life.

          The only real Spanish early success in North America was in New Mexico, which had at least some aspects of Mesoamerican societies in the Pueblos. In the East, the Spanish had a series of failed colonies in the Carolinas and Virginia and barely hung on in Florida. The Spanish claimed vast swathes of territory but didn’t do anything with it for another couple of hundred years. They didn’t start expanding into California and Texas until the 1700s and that was under fear that French and English might start to claim those areas.

          When French and English were able to effectively get to North America, they found the same situation that de Soto did and as we see in history, it was a slower go to displace or gradually absorb the native groups.

        • Toad says:

          Helps they didn’t have huge quantities of gold and silver.

    • Toad says:

      And it took the Europeans 200 years to settle from the east coast to the Appalachians, compared to 100 years to reach from the Appalachians to the west coast.

      Exponential population growth.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps the Indo-Europeans also had novel diseases to help them out.

  6. ALS says:

    This is slightly off topic, but as a regular reader of this blog I was wondering if Dr. Cochran might comment on the (highly politicized) debate over the pre-contact aboriginal population in North America. The subject strikes me as similar to what Dr. Cochran wrote a short while ago in a blog post about prehistoric archaeology in Europe: “With a very limited set of clues, smart guys managed to get key facts about European prehistory roughly correct almost 90 years ago . With tremendously better tools, better methods, vastly more money, more data, etc, archaeologists (most of them) drifted farther and farther from the truth.”

    The scholars in the first three or four decades of the twentieth century who studied this question, arrived at low estimates for the pre-1492 human population in what is Canada and the United States. James Mooney, in particular, did a lot of work on the subject and came up with a figure of around 1.15 million for all of Canada and the US. Nowadays, in certain circles, these figures are cited as examples of racist thinking, and it is sometimes suggested that there were tens of millions of people living in Canada/US prior to European contact. Any thoughts?

  7. IC says:

    Evolution outcome is quite random like lottery. Small detail can tip the balance big time.

  8. Jim says:

    Regarding Amerindians and the “original Indo-Europeans”, I seem to recall Greenberg mentioning somewhere that of all Old World languages his Amerindian super family seemed most similar to Indo-European.

  9. dave chamberlin says:

    No one talks much about the slow evolution of increased human intelligence, yet. For one reason it can be a career killer, or a book sales killer. For a second reason, nobody yet knows, there is no way to prove things one way or another…yet.

    But it would explain a lot. And it makes perfect sense, biologically, historically, and logically. I can preach to the choir at this blog or be insulted or given the cold shoulder most other places for speaking my mind on this.

    I expect I can’t do much so I will sit back and watch the slow motion reality show that is science plodding forward. My best guess at this time is Steve Hsu is right. With enough complete genomes and enough super computers working on it we will discover the genetic architecture of human intelligence. If that happens then we can look across time, and across populations, and prove what I strongly suspect is true. Evolution works on us and up to the industrial age we have been slowly getting smarter. Why on earth would that be shocking? It’s silly to think that is shocking, but it is, because it immediately leads to dashing our much beloved idealism that we are all created equal. When you open this Pandora’s Box that we are simply obeying the laws of evolution, than you can start to make some dangerous conclusions regarding the reversal of fortunes of Old Europe when the horse folk came calling as compared to New Europe when it so completely dominated the Amerinds after 1492.

    You take one part of the world, the Danube river basin, and you make it a place where one population with a slight edge pushes another out, or hybridizes introducing a bunch of new genes, and you let this happen over and over again. You take another part of the world, the America’s, and after one population fills it there is no more competition from people from the rest of the world. What does evolution tell you will be the result over enough time? If, perish the thought, evolution works on us and we can become more intelligent with time than which group would be pushed harder to evolve faster?

  10. love your posts, dave chamberlin

  11. Sean says:

    European colour traits were a result of something that happened very roughly around 15, 000 years ago around the time that the first known impacted wisdom tooth is dated to, and also around the time the white skin alleles at SLC24A originated . The light-skinned allele at SLC45A2 is dated to the same time frame and mutations in this gene are a cause of oculocutaneous albinism type 4, and polymorphisms are associated with variations in hair color, there are multiple transcript variants encoding different isoforms too. So, the selection pressure for the appearance of Europeans was nothing to do with vitamin D, was something that acted on aspects of appearance like making facial bones more delicate, and lightening skin while making hair and eye colour diverse, and it was strong around 15,000 years ago.

    Unless the steppe-tundra population was rather small or shrank precipitously after the ice age and remained small for several thousands of years, it is odd that the remains found have been blue eyed dark skinned Mesolithic people, and white skinned dark eyed Mesolithic people , but no white skinned, light eyed and haired Mesolithic people. None and that is over a huge area including the man found the land that is now Luxembourg (certainly not far from the European plain). iT IS suggested that “This older phenotype must have gradually disappeared as the newer phenotype spread outwards from the plains of northern and eastern Europe.”

    Maybe the when the herds disappeared from the north European plain with the end of the steppe-tundra, most of the S-T hunters with the modern European phenotype tried to follow the dwindling herds and ended up moving a long way away. Maybe they came back in the Neolithic as apparent interlopers, the Indo Europeans

    • Kate says:

      Sean, if the changes happened at the same time, why are the remains partial – light skin but not eyes and vice versa – are you saying the changes occurred at the same time but in different groups, which eventually came together to create light-light? How do explain the different distributions of, a) white hair/grey eyes, which radiates out from the Baltic; and b) red hair, which is dotted about but particularly it seems along the Atlantic/North Sea fringe. I’m not challenging your analysis, btw, just interested to fully comprehend it (because it ‘looks’ as if at least two separate groups underwent some sort of pigmentation-shift.).

      • Sean says:

        ” if the changes happened at the same time, why are the remains partial – light skin but not eyes and vice versa”

        AS I understand it When humans entered Europe the early partial skin lightening was on the KITLG gene, then some more on OCA2-HERC ( the blue eyes one). Luxembourg man may be an older type left behind. The big changes to the major skin lightening genes like SLC24A are estimated around 15,000 years ago. Peter Frost says it happened on the north European plain

        We don’t know how representative the Luxembourg man remains are of the steppe -tundra population or even if they were still there . With the end of the ice age they could have left the plain some to follow the herds to the Baltic and then Sweden as the ice retreated, other may have been fishermen in Doggerland

  12. Sean says:

    It is easy to see how Indo Europeans horse raids could have worked well on the north European plain, but I’m not sure about other terrain. I think you have to assume the conquerors had qualities the conquered lacked. There must have been superior organisation and cohesion on the part of the Indo Europeans. Some kind of institutions that could call on the warrior not just to kill for his own glory, but to die for the group if necessary. And where did they evolve the mental attributes to create their war winning culture?

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      I think an environment where the cost-benefit of raiding is net positive will select for traits that are useful to raiders i.e. killers.

      Similarly environments where the cost-benefit of violence is net negative will gradually select against killers.

      I think this creates the mechanism for periodic mass raider incursions.

      Each wave of conquest replenishes the frequency of killer genes and creates a new equilibrium then the new farmers pacify over time until a tipping point is reached.

      (Same mechanism behind the maritime waves into Britain and Ireland imo.)

      (I wonder if this process might create a conveyor belt effect as raider groups from the border zone move into the farmer zone leaving a vacuum behind them that is filled by other tribes from further away?)

      “It is easy to see how Indo Europeans horse raids could have worked well on the north European plain, but I’m not sure about other terrain.”

      So one possible answer is they had 16% killer genes from the steppe raiding dynamic which they carried with them until they settled down.

      (I think there’s likely to be a fairly low maximum frequency of killer genes where above that a civil war will break out and reduce the frequency below the limit.)

      Another possibility is they didn’t work as well in the northern third of Europe hence the R1 + I pattern in the haplogroups i.e. they had to amalgamate some native population rather than physically submerge which they seem to have done in the central third of Europe.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        @myself

        “Each wave of conquest replenishes the frequency of killer genes and creates a new equilibrium then the new farmers pacify over time until a tipping point is reached.”

        Of course you could replace “killer genes” with “warrior culture” for a sanitized version.

        • Sean says:

          ME farmers were stopped from colonising the north area because they were up against a lot of people (the population density was extremely high due to the fish processing communities there). The indo Europeans would be up against people who had nowhere to go,. In addition to being cooperative and cohesive(do to the need for cooperation to exploit rich resources like the Wadden Sea). there were a LOT of them . The low countries such as Holland were where the modern world first appeared (ie urbanised commercial civil society).

  13. Erik Sieven says:

    By the way there will be a new Max Planck Institute for Genetics in History in Germany, which, as I understand, will cover questions similar to those discussed on this blog

  14. Greying Wanderer says:

    I think this thread shows how mining early US history could be invaluable in figuring out IE history.

  15. Matt says:

    Slightly off topic, but re: deja vu – Greg states that farming had arrived through the continental USA long prior to the arrival of Europeans.

    From language groups it seems like this wasn’t through a demographic expansion of the primary region for domestication of the main Amerindian crops.

    A curious element here is not just why the encounter of Plains Indians and European settlers was like Old Europe and the Indo Europeans (if it was).

    It’s also why the expansion of agriculture in the Americas wasn’t like the expansion of the “Old Europeans” (or Early European Farmers) into Europe.

    The sheer distance involved? North and Central America together is a fair bit larger than Europe.

    Or was there, “culturally”, something more similar, more incipiently agricultural in most of the Native groups in the Americas, which contrasted much more strongly between Mesolithic HGs and early Neolithic farmers?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Some plants had already been domesticated in the eastern part of the US (Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee) before the Mesoamerican crops arrived: squash, little barley, goosefoot, sumpweed, and sunflower. They were mostly displaced by more productive Mexican crops, when they finally arrived: maize, beans. and other varieties of squash.

      As far as I know the Mesolithic Europeans hadn’t domesticated anything, but then the time window since the climate had become favorable to such things in Europe was short.

      • epoch2013 says:

        “As far as I know the Mesolithic Europeans hadn’t domesticated anything, but then the time window since the climate had become favorable to such things in Europe was short.”

        However, we are pretty sure that a group HG’s remained and slowly adapted to agriculture. They kept pigs. We also know that these HG’s were clearly decendant to mesolithic HG’s as we checked their genomes. See Ajvide DNA, which is dated 2800 BC. These people had a distinct culture called pitted ware culture, which shows use of pottery and domesticated pigs. Very, very similar cultures lived along the fringes of LBK: Swifterband and Ertebolla culture.

        There is a very interesting study on mtDNA of remains of pigs found om the sites of German LBK and Ertebolla culture. It shows that at first pigs in both cultures showed a clear connection to Asia Minor, then after a while locally domesticated pigs started to show up, both at Ertebolla and LBK.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1976408/

  16. Harold says:

    Here is an interesting passage from ‘woodcraft’ by George W. Sears,

    “The first settlers in the unbroken forest knew how
    to diagnose a tree. They came to the “Holland Purchase” from the
    Eastern States, with their families, in a covered wagon, drawn by a
    yoke of oxen, and the favorite cow patiently leading behind. They could
    not start until the ground was settled, some time in May, and nothing
    could be done in late summer, save to erect a log cabin and clear a few
    acres for the next season. To this end the oxen were indispensable and
    a cow was of first necessity, where there were children. And cows and
    oxen must have hay. But there was not a lot of hay in the country. A
    few hundred pounds of coarse wild grass was gleaned from the margins of
    streams and small marshes; but the main reliance was “browse.” Through
    the warm months the cattle could take care of themselves; but, when
    winter settled down in earnest, a large part of the settler’s work
    consisted in providing browse for his cattle. First and best was the
    basswood (linden): then came maple, beech, birch and hemlock. Some of
    the trees would be nearly three feet in diameter, and when felled, much
    of the browse would be twenty feet above the reach of cattle, on the
    ends of huge limbs. Then the boughs were lopped off and the cattle
    could get at the browse. The settlers divided the tree into log, limbs,
    boughs and browse. Anything small enough for a cow or deer to masticate
    was browse.”

    It is interesting that he takes it for granted that a cow is a necessity where there were children.
    Most interesting, however, is the use of felled trees to feed cattle. An idea of which I was unaware (probably it is not new to our know-it-all host). I wonder if this felling of trees for feed was a repeat of the past.

    • gcochran9 says:

      The correct phrase is “all-knowing”. No, hadn’t heard of that.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “It is interesting that he takes it for granted that a cow is a necessity where there were children. Most interesting, however, is the use of felled trees to feed cattle. An idea of which I was unaware (probably it is not new to our know-it-all host). I wonder if this felling of trees for feed was a repeat of the past.”

      interestingness 10/10

  17. epoch2013 says:

    Some of this similarity was the product of historical accidents: the local Amerindians were thin on the ground, like Europe’s Mesolithic hunters – but not so much because farming hadn’t arrived (it had in most of the United States), more because of an ongoing population crash from European diseases.

    That is one of the big differences between Amerindians and MHG’s:

    The most interesting find in La Brana is overlooked and ignored in most blog posts. La Brana 1 already had resistance genes to those diseases.

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