Sheep Grazing at Torr Head – Northern Ireland

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>but by no means do they cover the majority of the continent like castles and Roman ruins do.

They do in all of Central America and most of South America. As for the “mound-builders” –which, by the way, is not a term to use in polite/educated company anymore– these weren’t simple mounds like you’d see on a golf-course. These were monumental architecture, some of them, like Monk’s Mound at Cahokia (which was actually an earthen pyramid –the tallest man-made structure in the Americas north of Mexico– that was plastered and painted in gleaming whites, reds and blues) were frickin’ huge. The city of Cahokia itself had a population of at least 50k people as well as a network of related suburbs and more distant partner cities that were all part of the larger Mississippian and Hopewell cultures.

We have this idea that indigenous North Americans only existed in smaller scale societies for the very good reason that by the time large numbers of Europeans made it across the Appalachians in the early 1700s, the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys were basically post-apocalyptic wastelands after having had their thriving urban civilizations basically wiped out 200 years before by European introduced diseases that easily –due to the sophisticated and extensive trade networks then extant– outran actual European exploration. It’s estimated that a third to a half of the big Mississippian cultures were wiped out by disease, another third died due to starvation caused by massive collapse of infrastructure, and the final third, or quarter, split up into small family-based bands and moved out into rural areas in order to survive. These remnant groups are what the Europeans first encountered as they began to cross the Appalachians and come into the Ohio and Mississipi Valleys. If you want to read more about it, Charles Mann’s “1491” is an excellent popular edition meant for the non-technical audience.

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