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Stone Builders, Mound Builders and the Giants of Ancient America

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Interesting video. TED and TEDx talks are often interesting.

Just some random thoughts:

There are plenty of similar structures all round the world including a number in the UK and Ireland. Documentaries here have shown how domed and arched structures were built. Not difficult for skilled artisans, and very similar to dry-stone walls. I do get a bit annoyed when people don't have enough imagination to realise that although we'd build using machinery, it isn't impossible to construct even very large structures using human muscle power, simple techniques, and a heck of a lot of time.

Alignment to sunrise/sunset and other astronomical events. The night sky would have been very visible to prehistoric people, not least because there was no light pollution back then. Having permanent structures to mark certain times of the year are useful not just for the equinoxes/solstices but also to give some idea of how long before and after those dates which aids in planning ahead for sowing/harvesting and so on. We're so attuned to accurate calendars and clocks that we can forget that for people back then just some idea was sufficient for their needs.

Giants with two rows of teeth. Could well be a genetic variation that persisted for some time because of a fairly limited gene pool at that time. Humans do have two sets of teeth, and as far as I know the baby teeth get pushed out by the developing adult teeth. But sometimes an adult tooth doesn't descend down the same track as the baby tooth and so doesn't push it out (the baby tooth is usually removed by a dentist). Some people do have extra teeth, called supernumerary teeth. My son had two of those which he had to have removed.

Manifest destiny: Having studied some American history recently, I think I understand a little about "manifest destiny", which put something of a spin on American attitudes towards the original inhabitants, especially as the European settlers pushed west into what was mostly unknown territory for them. The idea that those of European descent were the "chosen ones" was probably more of a psychological crutch rather than a sign of arrogance. Mind you, how the British/French/Dutch/Spanish behaved in their colonies pretty much was just arrogance.

Cover-ups: Although I'm not one to believe in conspiracy theories, I do think some major institutions are still downplaying the effect of European colonisation on Native Americans, and also European involvement in the slave trade. It's only very recently that the role of British seaports in the slave trade has been publicly admitted.

As for the Smithsonian: I don't know too much about that institution, but I was pretty shocked when I recently read about how the Wright Brothers were treated by them back in the past. Brief story here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wright_brothers#Smithsonian_feud, but basically the Smithsonian wanted "their" man to be credited with the first manned flight rather than two guys who owned a bicycle repair shop.

I think it is difficult to speak out about things like this because there's the risk that, by challenging the "standard" perception of the past, a person could look a bit of a nutter, but in the history of a country/nation/people there's always more than one story to be told.

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Oh man...sorry but this might be a bit of a rant on Jim Vieira. He was all over the map and really had a convoluted argument.

When he started the lecture, I was a little confused given the title being about "stone builders, mound builders and giants" and prefacing his talk with the problem of the "racist paradigm"....which in fact, springs from ideas of mysterious, lost ancient races, giant or otherwise (there was at one time a belief that "mound builders" was a race killed off by the Native American tribes before the Europeans arrived)...I had hope that when he started talking about Cahokia Mounds and Mississippians it might go somewhere more factual, but ended up being more of a talk about racist conspiracies perpetuated to the present day by the Smithsonian, conspiring to cover-up age-old evidence. Um yeeeeaah....

...I will admit he is correct about the Smithsonian having an agenda, a racist one in line with manifest destiny and the greater agenda of the rest of the US government agenda to solve "the Native American problem" they faced up into the end of the 19th century (if not well up into Great Depression?) by systematically and forcibly trying to contain or incorporating them into European-America society. And much of this was perpetuated by a lack of understanding of world history and the sciences at that time...there instead was a literal interpretation of the bible prevalent in this day, a belief in the supernatural was widespread and unfounded theories were concocted lost races that were not Native American. This even extended into Mexico where the Aztec temples were destroyed and largely built over, other archaeological sites in the Mayan region and other areas of Mesoamerica remained mysteries to both Europeans and others, even though it was only a couple hundred years ago that the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs and their subjects thrived before Spanish colonization, reduced to a forgotten memory of savage and mysterious past, completely disconnected to the modern reality of the most populous native groups living within the new nationhood of Mexico free from Spanish rule. The Smithsonian were paying for Native American skulls, both ancient and modern, so they could study them, extracting measurement data...we were in the very beginnings of formulating scientific methods and theories though quite in its infancy with very questionable methods, motivations and biases. Though by the beginning of the 20th century, things began to change...anthropologists like Franz Boas and later by the 1930s-40s archaeologists began a process of developing academic disciples and research methodologies that were not psuedo-scientific and antiquarian but had the first attempts in trying to remain objective via the scientific method, more nuanced in description to fully understand cultural ways rather than focusing on artifacts (both "modern" and prehistoric) as treasure; but instead as insights into everyday life of people different than those of European lives. So the "racist paradigm" in archaeology pretty much got dropped by around WWII (significant that biological science (and the social sciences) was establishing itself concurrently with the rise of Hitler and his agenda to support an Aryan race as superior to all "races" lost in history, that we say the sciences mature to discard ideas of ancient lost races building monumental architecture in the Americas), theories and more robust research began in archaeology during the 50s, 60s, 70s where the "racist paradigm" (I think it's really a misnomer to call it a paradigm, it really was just a sign of the times) gave way to descriptive paradigms, "new archaeology" paradigm (melding science and anthropological theory), post-structural/post-modern paradigm (dwelving deeper into theory)...

I don't know much of anything of the archaeology of New England (I know much more about Cahokia, Mississippians, a little about Hopewellian effigy mounds) but the earliest sites in the Americas in this region, talking about 10,000+ years before present, prior to the construction of any monumental architecture in the Americas, is the subject of debate now at fairly high circles in the archaeological community, that perhaps there was European contact via ice bridges into Canada and Northeastern US, though this would've been very isolated and this early possible contact would not have last as the Holocene brought on warmer climate melting any possible ice sheets that could've connected Europe, Greenland, and North America. We have conclusive proof of Viking contact into Canada with well researched and documented habitation sites, though this was isolated as well. It is possible that the stone structures mentioned in the lecture, with proper research, are part of isolated European contact with North America prior to the 16th century. Could also be very early abandoned European-American colonial constructions. (as a sidenote, locally here in Mexico, an acquaintance of mine, American caver/journalist of mine found underground aqueducts called "qanats" which is a Middle Eastern technology, which has not been documented very much at all in the historical record of Spanish colonization, but clearly was brought to Latin America by early Spanish colonists when establishing early colonial settlements which required much less effort than building above ground aqueducts before they had "cooperative" labor forces of the local native populations.)

The accounts and pictures of giant skeletons reported/received by the Smithsonian are part of the "racist paradigm", likely a lot of it is exaggerated or completely fabricated by a public and even scientists of this time with beliefs and superstitions that giants existed in a past, before there was widespread education, before science really developed, before historians really has a cohesive body of work to teach...

...not to say that anomalies don't exist at all...but to propose that there are conspiracies hiding anything giant skeletons discovered in the 19th century is so far fetched and convoluted with respect to an idea of a "racist paradigm" I cannot give Jim Vieira much credibility at all. I wish he had talked a little more about the physical anthropologist working on repatriation of some of those 8-foot skeletons, as I have a hunch there was something irregular in how these individuals were discovered and curated.

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