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Old 11-21-2013, 10:02 PM   #1
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The History/Archaeology Thread

So, this is the thread where all history geeks can chat about history and historical theories, and the thrill of archaeology.

I found a good one to start off. The U.S. isn't really known for its archaeology and its pre-Columbus Native American history is often ignored, so why not this story?

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Serpent Mound arguably is the most recognizable icon of ancient America. Therefore, you might be surprised to learn that much about this mound is arguable, including its age.

Serpent Mound was long thought to be an Adena mound, dating to between 800 B.C. and A.D. 100, but opinions shifted in the 1990s when a team of archaeologists obtained radiocarbon dates on charcoal recovered from the mound.

The results seemed to indicate that the Great Serpent was built by the Fort Ancient culture around A.D. 1120. But a study presented at last month’s Midwest Archaeological Conference in Columbus suggests it might be an Adena mound after all.

Serpent Mound was excavated by Frederic Ward Putnam in the late 1800s. He didn’t find any artifacts in the serpent, but there were two other mounds nearby in which he found artifacts that belong to what we now identify as the Adena culture.

Putnam also found traces of an Adena village near the mound. This is why it was widely believed that Serpent Mound was an Adena effigy mound.

But Putnam also found traces of a large village of the Fort Ancient culture overlying the earlier Adena village, and another nearby mound contained Fort Ancient artifacts. If you date the mound based on the age of what else is in the vicinity, you could say it was built by either the Adena or the Fort Ancient.

In 1992, I worked with a team that reopened one of Putnam’s original excavation trenches and recovered the charcoal that produced the Fort Ancient dates. Unfortunately, the charcoal did not come from a discrete feature, such as a fire pit. Instead, it consisted of small flecks mixed into the body of the mound.

That means we’re not really sure what we dated. It could have been the remains of fires burning when the mound was being built. Or it could have been charcoal from Fort Ancient-era campfires that somehow worked its way into an older mound.

Last year, William Romain and a team of scientists from various universities and private archaeology firms went to Serpent Mound to conduct research aimed, in part, at obtaining better dates for the mound’s construction. They recovered numerous flecks of charcoal in soil cores from across the mound, including several of which yielded dates of between 400 and 80 B.C.

These results appear to indicate that the Adena culture built the mound as originally thought. However, these samples have the same issues as the charcoal recovered by the 1992 team. The charcoal could be from old Adena fire pits that were dug up and incorporated into the effigy by Fort Ancient or even later mound-builders.

Does knowing the age of Serpent Mound really matter? Absolutely. Without being able to place it in time and understand its historic context, this mound, however magnificent, is little more than a generic icon of Ohio’s ancient American Indian heritage.

For a variety of reasons, I’m still convinced that the Serpent Mound was built by the Fort Ancient culture. But the new dates make it clear that the debate is far from over.
Archaeology | Scientists disagree on age of Serpent Mound | The Columbus Dispatch

See? Not all Native Americans were living in teepees, hunting buffalo and leaving almost nothing behind. They had their monuments and they did build something rather than teepees or homesteads (I think the Mississippi area and the tribes in the Northeast lived like that).
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Old 11-21-2013, 10:29 PM   #2
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Native American history is truly fascinating. Growing up near St. Louis I was close to Cahokia Mounds, which at one point was center of the largest Native American "empire" in North America.

It is strange how times have changed a bit. When I was a young kid, it seemed that Native American interest was much higher than it is today. We need another Dances with Wolves.
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Old 11-21-2013, 10:42 PM   #3
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Awesome idea for a thread, Pearl. Looking forward to some good stuff
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Old 11-21-2013, 10:48 PM   #4
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Who ever suggested that Native Americans have left nothing behind?


Archeology isn't my bag, but history was my second major, so I'm interested to see where this thread goes.
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Old 11-21-2013, 11:06 PM   #5
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Looking forward to some good stuff
I thought you were going to share some artifacts of Noah's Ark with us...
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Old 11-21-2013, 11:11 PM   #6
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I thought you were going to share some artifacts of Noah's Ark with us...
hahaha

I do have some cool stuff I could share though... I'd need to take pictures of them first
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Old 11-21-2013, 11:16 PM   #7
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A few year's back - I had the chance to tour the British Museum. I felt like I could have spent years in that place...
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Old 11-21-2013, 11:18 PM   #8
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I love vising the museum. I'll often just go on my own, put something relaxing on my headphones, and walk around. I bet ours has nothing on the British Museum, however. But still, ours is pretty good
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Old 11-21-2013, 11:32 PM   #9
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We need another Dances with Wolves.
Is it OK that I think that movie is truly awesome? I really don't think another movie like that can top it. If there was one with a buffalo hunt scene, it will be done with CGI and a green screen, not actual buffalos stampeding across the plain

Oh great. Less than one page in, and this thread is already veering off course. Well, historical movies can be discussed here, I guess, since they can be so inaccurate.

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Who ever suggested that Native Americans have left nothing behind?
I don't recall ever learning about the Native Americans in school, aside from how they were treated by white settlers. It's like they just so happened to be here when the Europeans arrived. I'd like to see some schools teach more about them and point out that the Native Americans did build civilizations beyond the Stone Age type - like the dwellings the Anasazi built in the southwest. Then again, this is my NYC public school experience.
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Old 11-21-2013, 11:40 PM   #10
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I don't recall ever learning about the Native Americans in school, aside from how they were treated by white settlers. It's like they just so happened to be here when the Europeans arrived. I'd like to see some schools teach more about them and point out that the Native Americans did build civilizations beyond the Stone Age type - like the dwellings the Anasazi built in the southwest. Then again, this is my NYC public school experience.
Since I'm from the Midwest - perhaps we received a bit more of an education on the Native Americans. It wasn't unusual for a kid to bring a recently found arrowhead to "show and tell."

I never found one, but I loved trudging through the woods with my uncle looking for them...
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Old 11-21-2013, 11:53 PM   #11
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Since I'm from the Midwest - perhaps we received a bit more of an education on the Native Americans. It wasn't unusual for a kid to bring a recently found arrowhead to "show and tell."

I never found one, but I loved trudging through the woods with my uncle looking for them...
I find it so odd to imagine NYC was once inhabited by Native Americans. Heck, I can barely picture the way it was around the Revolution, even though some buildings near where I work are from that era. NYC is just so modern and we're always looking ahead than looking back. If we do look back, its about 50 years, more if you're older.
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Old 11-22-2013, 12:50 AM   #12
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I find it so odd to imagine NYC was once inhabited by Native Americans. Heck, I can barely picture the way it was around the Revolution, even though some buildings near where I work are from that era. NYC is just so modern and we're always looking ahead than looking back. If we do look back, its about 50 years, more if you're older.
I think it's crazy to think that Wall Street used to be the northern most point in New York.
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Old 11-22-2013, 01:01 AM   #13
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A few year's back - I had the chance to tour the British Museum. I felt like I could have spent years in that place...

They really did steal all the best stuff.

I've been a few times in my life and each time I grow more amazed at what's there.
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Old 11-22-2013, 01:08 AM   #14
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They really did steal all the best stuff.

I've been a few times in my life and each time I grow more amazed at what's there.

You know, after reading about what happened to the museums in Egypt - maybe it's better that they did take it...maybe...
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Old 11-22-2013, 02:50 PM   #15
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Since I'm from the Midwest - perhaps we received a bit more of an education on the Native Americans. It wasn't unusual for a kid to bring a recently found arrowhead to "show and tell."

I never found one, but I loved trudging through the woods with my uncle looking for them...
Yeah, maybe that's what it is... I just feel like it's weird to say there's no presence of their history when it seems to be surrounding us just living in this country. I don't know, I guess I've never thought about it, but you're not going to find much, like with the Egyptian pyramids, no, but there's no doubting they were here, either.
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