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

By Daniel K. Richter

During this epic synthesis, Richter finds a brand new the US. Surveying many centuries sooner than 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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Among Mississippians, the activity later known as chunkey must have served similar functions: in a large open plaza, contestants rolled distinctive two- to three-inch disks made of stone or ceramics and attempted to stop them by throwing wooden poles in their path. Tobacco pipes, often with bowls carefully shaped in contemplative human or other-than-human figures were prominent features of peace councils among later Native Americans; no doubt they served similar functions in medieval times. And while we can have no direct access to the oral traditions people recited as they smoked such pipes, they probably taught the virtues of peace over war, cooperation over violence.

Like most societies in human history, those of medieval North America glorified martial violence: they bestowed exalted social status on warriors who increased their power in these ways, and they heaped shame on those 28 Progenitors who were conquered and enslaved. But there is also every reason to believe that a countervailing ideology embracing peace was at work among both elites and commoners—at least, this is what is implied by everything we know about the ritual dualities of war and peace among the descendants of these societies.

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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