From the time Europeans arrived in the Americas, they encountered native peoples. The American Indians turned out not to be the peoples the Europeans expected to encounter. This caused no small amount of concern, particularly for the Church as they had no ready explanation for them within views of the time. They also found earthworks they couldn't explain, some of them simple burial mounds, some in the shapes of animals, and some as huge pyramid-shaped structures rivaling the pyramids of Egypt in volume and social order required to achieve the accomplishment. Their beliefes simply did not allow for the possibility that the Indians could have built such magnificent structures nor authored the civilizations evident before them. Instead they proposed a story. One of fanciful explanations for who the Indians were and for who built the mounds. Soon is was "common knowledge." Any fool knew the Indians could not have built the mounds. The Ivory tower stood high and mighty in it's acertion of these views as well. Eventually even new religions spraing up from these romanticized notions. Science has proven time and again, as have the accounts of the early explorers, that the Amerindians built the mounds. However, this knowledge would soon be forgotten in favor of the fantastic. This has repeated it's pathetic cycle since European settlers first cam here and contimues today. Consider the links below. We have noted their peculations and our brief comments about them.
This is an award-winning page (Figure that one out!) that contends that most Indians are descended from the tribe of Gad. It cites sources that date to the 1700s and is plagued with historical error as in the following example:
"The tribe of Gad are the Native American Indians found on reservations throughout America. Genesis 49:19 - 'Gad, a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last.' The troop that overcame Gad was General Armstrong Custer and the 10th U.S. Cavalry. They defeated the Sioux Indians at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. Chief Sitting Bull surrendered during the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1891. [Notice that Reubenites NEVER surrendered]. This is when they began to be pushed onto reservations."
Need we say more? George Custer was leading the 7th cavalry and lost the battle.
Mormonism & the Lost
The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) believe that Jaredites came to America about 2000 B.C. building a thriving civilization that was destroyed in a great battle at Hill Cumorah. They were followed by the Lamanites and Nephites who became the Moundbuilders. The Lamanites became red-skinned to mark their sins. Warfare broke out, with the Lamanites eventually winning. There is no archaeological evidence to support this claim. This topic is dealt with in a paper posted here, and on the discussion page located here. You will need to judge for yourself.
The Mystery of the
Great Serpent Mound
No question about it, the Great Serpent Mound in Ohio is a spectacular earthwork, usually attributed to the Adena culture. This blurb for a new book puts it in a New Age context but with a Moundbuilder bent. For example, the Great Serpent Mound shows:
"...a strong Egyptian connection to the serpent image indicating its precedence to important Egyptian symbolic geometry and measurement"
As archaeologists, we are sensitive to concerns expressed by Native Americans about what archaeology does in terms of constructing histories of their peoples. Archaeologists can only deal with the material evidence excavated from ancient sites. Like other cultures, Native groups have their own origin stories. Archaeology, frankly, has been exploitative and many Indian people do not understand the limitations of its science. Some have openly criticized archaeology.
Red Earth, White
Vine Deloria, Jr. is a frequent critic of scholars who deal with American Indian history or culture. This homepage advertising his new book contains blurbs from others, and alludes to Goodman's American Genesis. Sadly, the archaeology is very dated and inaccurate. If you would like read what others have said, you can read Steve Brock's reviewand several newsgroup postings about it, copied to a file for you to read, with full text and by-lines.
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