Before the Revolution: America’s Ancient Pasts by Daniel K. Richter

By Daniel K. Richter

During this epic synthesis, Richter unearths a brand new the USA. Surveying many centuries ahead of the yankee Revolution, we find the tumultuous encounters among the peoples of North the United States, Africa, and Europe and spot how the current is the buildup of the traditional layers of the previous.

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Inside and outside a protective palisade wall were dozens of smaller pyramids and mounds, along with thousands of public buildings, communal houses, and storage structures. At one edge of the city, a circular arrangement of posts, built and rebuilt several times in varying configurations, tracked the movements of the sun, which during the equinoxes appeared to rise from inside the main temple pyramid. Several smaller mound centers, usually interpreted as subsidiary towns 22 Progenitors whose chiefs owed allegiance to a paramount chief at Cahokia, dotted the 250-square-mile American Bottom area.

Yet reliance on horses to do plowing and other work came at considerable cost: most of the new summer oat production went into equine stomachs. Other domestic animals—apart from pigs, goats, and fowl, who were mostly left to scavenge for themselves in the woods and thus occupied an ecological niche similar to North American deer—required similar trade-offs. Cattle (kept mostly for their labor and dairy products) and sheep (kept for their wool) could not survive just on the stubble of fallow fields; people who raised them had to set aside large tracts as pasturage and devote substantial amounts of land to fodder crops.

Such persons could intervene in humans’ lives in a variety of visible and invisible ways. The effects could be for good or ill, or, better put, either advantageous or disadvantageous. This was not so much because otherthan-human persons were inherently good or evil, but simply because they were persons who had their own aims and who might or might not find themselves obligated to work with others. Thus, the sun might either encourage other-than-human food plants to grow, or scorch them to withered stalks.

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