Author Topic: Indigenous Technological Advancement Re: Indigenous fire management 'ancient wisdom' (Australian bus  (Read 2699 times)

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Offline 2397

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People whose culture developed in a place over forty thousand years probably know a damn sight more about how to sustainably live in that place than people with ideas developed on a different continent who've lived in the new place a fraction of a percent as long.

It's not that there's anything "noble savage" about it, it's just that the thing about "ancient knowledge" is that it took a long-ass time to develop. Yes, humans' initial arrival on new continents was frequently disastrous for many of the animals already there. But after those disasters, indigenous practices clearly worked fairly well seeing as they were subsequently able to maintain relatively stable populations for millennia. Meanwhile Europeans who arrived not infrequently starved because their farming techniques didn't work for new crops or new biomes. Also Europe itself was likely on the brink of mass starvation prior to the arrival of the potato.

It's basically evolution. Whatever works out is what you're left with over long stretches of time.

But also Europe was possibly 50 times as densely populated as Australia, in 1788. With Australia today being 30 times as densely populated as it was.

Meanwhile, industrialization (and new farming techniques) spread across the world, and the global population grew from just under 1 billion to 7.8 billion. Circumstances have changed far more over the last few centuries, than they have over the previous millenia.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2020, 12:51:12 AM by 2397 »

Offline daniel1948

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Indigenous peoples lived sustainably because they did not have the technology to destroy the environment. But the first humans in North America managed to kill off the largest animals, and one hunting method was to drive an entire herd of animals off a cliff and then cut what they needed from the ones on top. When resources are scarce, people figure out how to survive on those resources. That's living sustainably from necessity, not by choice. There are always isolated exceptions, but indigenous peoples became concerned about sustaining resources only after technologically more developed invaders arrived and wiped out the local resources, forcing the indigenous people to make do with the scarce remaining resources.
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Offline Rai

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Indigenous peoples lived sustainably because they did not have the technology to destroy the environment. But the first humans in North America managed to kill off the largest animals, and one hunting method was to drive an entire herd of animals off a cliff and then cut what they needed from the ones on top. When resources are scarce, people figure out how to survive on those resources. That's living sustainably from necessity, not by choice. There are always isolated exceptions, but indigenous peoples became concerned about sustaining resources only after technologically more developed invaders arrived and wiped out the local resources, forcing the indigenous people to make do with the scarce remaining resources.

That is just not true. most Indigenous agriculture in the Americas was simply better than anything Europe had at the time, allowing for higher population densities in many areas, especially Central Mexico and along the Amazon. Both the technology (I see your three field system and I raise my chinampas and terra preta) and the crops (sad little grains vs. potatoes, tomatoes, maize, squash, beans, peppers) were far better and had less of a harmful effect on the environment. The best example of the latter is how the invaders didn't even recognise cultivated lands as such and thought of it as wilderness, a misconception that persisted until fairly recently. 

Plus, the invaders were not more technologically advanced. They were just luckier with germs and far more barbaric.
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Offline Shibboleth

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As someone that grew up in South Dakota, based on research it appears that our state used to be on fire all the fucking time. The indigenous people used them to take out bison en masse. Of course the prairie fires didn't always behave.

It should be noted that native Americans were all murdery also with one another. They just lacked black powder and horses to do the job as extensively as they would have liked. Indigenous people are humans also and subject to all the flaws that flesh is heir to.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2020, 12:23:11 PM by Shibboleth »
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Online gmalivuk

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Frequent burns doesn't mean frequent wildfires, and the bit about murder is completely irrelevant to everything in this thread.
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Offline Rai

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As someone that grew up in South Dakota, based on research it appears that our state used to be on fire all the fucking time. The indigenous people used them to take out bison en masse. Of course the prairie fires didn't always behave.

They also used fire to engineer the Midwest into a gigantic bison farm where they'd always have plenty of meat anytime anywhere. Meanwhile, remind me what happened to the Aurochs or the European Bison?
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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From what I understand, the Europeans (initially Spanish and Portuguese) had iron, gunpowder, while the natives had none of this. There were major cities to be found, sure, and advanced systems of agriculture, but lacking in metal-working, and though they had wheels on toys, they did not make use of wheels on a large scale, unlike in Europe Africa, and Asia.

If the Europeans were not more technologically advanced, how do you explain their ability to conquer the Americas? Had Spain tried to conquer England, they would have failed. Not so with the parts of the Americas that they conquered.

The Europeans had other advantages as well, like horses. Native military commanders did not know how to counter horses because the animal and its use in war was new to them, so they were at a disadvantage there as well.
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Offline Rai

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From what I understand, the Europeans (initially Spanish and Portuguese) had iron, gunpowder, while the natives had none of this. There were major cities to be found, sure, and advanced systems of agriculture, but lacking in metal-working, and though they had wheels on toys, they did not make use of wheels on a large scale, unlike in Europe Africa, and Asia.

They did not have these things because they did not need them. That does not make them less advanced, only different. Why on earth would they have had wheels? There were no draft animals and where waterways did not serve them well enough, they had mountain ranges where wheels are absolutely useless. There was metalworking, just not for the same purposes as in Europe.

Personally, I rate flush toilets higher than gunpowder, but then again I don't value violent conquest as high as European tradition.

If the Europeans were not more technologically advanced, how do you explain their ability to conquer the Americas? Had Spain tried to conquer England, they would have failed. Not so with the parts of the Americas that they conquered.

They got lucky with the diseases and the peoples of the Americas weren't prepared for the insane savagery of the barbarian invaders and only realised their mistake too late.

The Europeans had other advantages as well, like horses. Native military commanders did not know how to counter horses because the animal and its use in war was new to them, so they were at a disadvantage there as well.

There weren't all that many horses to begin with. Even in the conquest of Mexico, the causes of victory were mostly smallpox, the contribution of Tlaxcala and other local allies who provided the majority of the fighting force and the early capture of Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin through treachery.

In the Andes, horses were more of a liability than anything and the remnants of Tawantinsuyu resisted for over 30 years. The Maya lasted 200 years before they were conquered. The conquest wasn't as smooth as Eurocentric historiography would want you to believe.
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Offline daniel1948

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Spanish steel was a very significant advancement. Wooden weapons shattered under it.
They did not have these things because they did not need them.

Now, that's nonsense. They didn't have metal tools because they had not yet figured out how to work metals.

Humans are cruel and brutal and savage. In Europe and Asia and Africa and in the Americas. The Europeans were just better at it because they had iron and steel and gunpowder. Maybe the native Americans didn't have wheels because they didn't have roads. But they didn't have roads because they hadn't yet figured out how to make roads.

It was just happenstance that Europeans developed these things before the peoples of America. If it had been the other way around, the American conquest of Europe would have been just as brutal as the European conquest of America was.
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Offline bachfiend

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Spanish steel was a very significant advancement. Wooden weapons shattered under it.
They did not have these things because they did not need them.

Now, that's nonsense. They didn't have metal tools because they had not yet figured out how to work metals.

Humans are cruel and brutal and savage. In Europe and Asia and Africa and in the Americas. The Europeans were just better at it because they had iron and steel and gunpowder. Maybe the native Americans didn't have wheels because they didn't have roads. But they didn't have roads because they hadn't yet figured out how to make roads.

It was just happenstance that Europeans developed these things before the peoples of America. If it had been the other way around, the American conquest of Europe would have been just as brutal as the European conquest of America was.

Well, they certainly knew how to work gold, which was more than half the problem (pure avarice fueled the Spaniards into conquest).  Bronze might have been a possibility, since copper is a relatively easy metal to smelt (whether supplies of tin or arsenic would have been easily available is another question - the current deposits of tin are in Bolivia and the Western Amazon region).  Europe had significant tin deposits in Wales, and there was significant regional trade.  Roads mightn’t have been of much use to the Indigenous Americans because they didn’t have horses or bullocks to pull carts (or even to carry heavy loads on poor tracks).  I can’t really imagine a llama pulling a heavy cart to make building roads worthwhile:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llama

Although they’re good pack animals.

Nations develop good roads if they’re doing significant trade.  Even in the 19th century, Europe didn’t have a particularly good road system.  Part of the impetus to railways and their construction was they didn’t have much competition from roads.  Travelling from one city to another by horse drawn coaches would have been a trial.  The traditional Grand Tour of Europe as a coming out ceremony for the rich was a significant achievement for them.
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Offline arthwollipot

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I should read Guns Germs and Steel again.
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Online gmalivuk

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Also 1491 and 1493.

(Quetzalcoatl ought also to read those two, as it might reduce the amount of easily refutable nonsense he says about colonialism and conquest.)
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Offline Rai

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Now, that's nonsense. They didn't have metal tools because they had not yet figured out how to work metals.

That is factually untrue. They worked copper alloys, gold pretty amazingly, they just did not use them for tools. They didn't need them.

Maybe the native Americans didn't have wheels because they didn't have roads. But they didn't have roads because they hadn't yet figured out how to make roads.

You are talking out of your ass now. Tawantinsuyu only had about 40.000 kilometres of roads. No wheels were used outside of toys because there were no draft animals to haul carts and the geography didn't make wheels useful.

As for savagery, no American culture had anywhere near the greed-focus and savagery of the Europeans and were all (at least the ones that have accounts of the invasion surviving) taken aback by it and by the fact that the Europeans couldn't hold their end of a deal for more than a few minutes if they were to financially benefit from it.

I should read Guns Germs and Steel again.

Please don't. Jared Diamond is a complete hack who molds facts to fit his pre-conceivend notions.

But Michael C. Mann's 1491 and 1493 are pure gold, read those instead. I can also recommend Daniel N. Paul's We Were Not the Savages and Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, among others.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Please don't. Jared Diamond is a complete hack who molds facts to fit his pre-conceivend notions.

I seem to have a memory of you referring to others whose content I find useful as "complete hacks" as well, so if it's okay to you I'm going to ignore your advice.
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Offline Rai

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Please don't. Jared Diamond is a complete hack who molds facts to fit his pre-conceivend notions.

I seem to have a memory of you referring to others whose content I find useful as "complete hacks" as well, so if it's okay to you I'm going to ignore your advice.

Even if you don't believe me, you should maybe consider anthropologists who, unlike the biologist Jared Diamond, know what they are talking about:

One
Two
Three
Four
Five

On top of that r/AskHistorians also has some fantastic Diamond material like this, this and this. They even have a dedicated FAQ section to how wrong he is.

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