Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilizations

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9780029173077: Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilizations
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Few realize that some of the oldest, largest, and most complex structures of ancient archaeology were built of earth, clay, and stone right here in America, in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. From 6,000 years ago until quite recently, North America was home to some of the most highly advanced and well organized civilizations in the world - complete with cities, roads, and commerce. From the lost city of Balbantsha, near New Orleans, to the Great Hopewell Road, a causeway for religious pilgrims along the Ohio River in the thirteenth century, these cultures built hundreds of thousands of structures, of which a small but tantalizing portion still remain. Like the Druids of Salisbury Plain, they patterned extraordinarily precise geometry according to the rising and setting of the moon. Like the ancient Egyptians, they organized millions of hours of human labor to construct pyramids, platforms, and plazas. In Hidden Cities, Roger G. Kennedy sets out on a bold quest of recovery - a recovery of the rich heritage of the North American peoples, and a reimagination of the true relations of their modern-day successors and neighbors.
From the Spanish and French explorers to the present, very few Euro-Americans have paid attention to the evidence and meaning of this heritage. Building on recent work of many archaeologists and historians, Roger Kennedy presents a fascinating picture of these American antiquities as well as their reception among leading citizens of the young United States. On missions of exploration, politics, and even piracy, men such as George Rogers Clark, George Washington, Albert Gallatin, and Thomas Jefferson frequently chanced upon the architecture of the past. As Kennedy shows us the magnificence of the mound-building cultures through the sometimes-prejudiced eyes of the Founding generation, he reveals not only the astounding history of our continent, but also the reasons why we have refused to credit Native American predecessors with the greatness they deserve.

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About the Author:

Roger G. Kennedy is the director of the National Park Service and is the former director of the American History Museum at the Smithsonian Institution.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Kennedy, director of the National Park Service, does better in exposing the prejudices of whites who came across the monuments of prehistoric America than in elucidating the mysteries embodied in these New World Stonehenges. An estimated 30 million Native Americans died of European or African diseases during the century following the conquistadors' appearance in the Western Hemisphere. They left behind significant traces of sophisticated cities, roads, and burial grounds in Memphis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and elsewhere in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys. Later explorers and soldiers beheld these relics--which included bits of antiquities, earthen mounds and various geometrical shapes carved into the landscape--with wonder, confusion, and obtuseness. Kennedy (Rediscovering America, 1990, etc.) perceptively analyzes how attempts to preserve and interpret Native American arts and architecture often foundered on the ingrained prejudices of even supposedly enlightened whites. (Thomas Jefferson, for example, was slow to shed his belief that Indians were incapable of architectural achievement.) Jeffersonians and Jacksonians found it easier to deprive Native Americans of land if they could deny that the Indians had a culture worth saving. They failed to follow the lead of such respectful figures as Jefferson's Treasury secretary, Albert Gallatin, described by Kennedy as "the first American statesman to employ the evidence of ancient American architecture to justify exertions to redeem the Republic from racial prejudice." The American mania for development, combined with dismissive scholarship that credited Indian achievements to fair-skinned "Welshmen" who supposedly discovered North America in the Middle Ages, led to a cavalier attitude toward Native American artifacts. By 1948, 90% of the earthen Indian architecture noted in a Smithsonian report 100 years earlier had been lost. Best read as an exploration of colliding cultures rather than an examination of the riddles left behind by Native American builders. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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