Author Topic: Indigenous Technological Advancement Re: Indigenous fire management 'ancient wisdom' (Australian bus  (Read 1397 times)

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Online Rai

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Second, I am not aware of any evidence that the collection of states in Europe, to which you for some reason don't count the Ottoman Empire despite that it controlled significant amounts of European lands, were on the verge of collapsing in the early 15th century, and that the conquests of the Americas prevented this collapse. What is your source for that claim?

My main source are the bi-weekly famines that make it clear that Europe could not even feed itself. That is not indicative of upcoming prosperity.

Bi-weekly famines?   How did the Spanish and Portuguese conquest of the Americas prevent or mitigate European famines?

For one, by introducing the products of American agricultural innovation, especially maize and potato, which caused a nutritional revolution across the planet.
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Offline bachfiend

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Second, I am not aware of any evidence that the collection of states in Europe, to which you for some reason don't count the Ottoman Empire despite that it controlled significant amounts of European lands, were on the verge of collapsing in the early 15th century, and that the conquests of the Americas prevented this collapse. What is your source for that claim?

My main source are the bi-weekly famines that make it clear that Europe could not even feed itself. That is not indicative of upcoming prosperity.

Bi-weekly famines?   How did the Spanish and Portuguese conquest of the Americas prevent or mitigate European famines?

For one, by introducing the products of American agricultural innovation, especially maize and potato, which caused a nutritional revolution across the planet.

So, you’re telling me that Europe didn’t have other crops before the introduction of South American products?  Or that corn, potatoes and tomatoes are somehow resistant to the famines of the Little Ice Age, which was partly due to ravages of the Black Death starting in 1347, which depopulated Europe and caused farmland to revert to forest and causing a drop in atmospheric CO2?

And bi-weekly famines?
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Online gmalivuk

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Europe didn't previously have crops that were as calorie-dense (per unit land area), as reliably productive, or as nutritionally complete as potatoes, no.

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Potatoes didn’t replace grain but complemented it. Every year, farmers left fallow as much as half of their grain land, to rest the land and fight weeds (they were plowed under in summer). Now smallholders could grow potatoes on the fallow land, controlling weeds by hoeing. Because potatoes were so productive, the effective result was, in terms of calories, to double Europe’s food supply. “For the first time in the history of western Europe, a definitive solution had been found to the food problem,” the Belgian historian Chris Vandenbroeke concluded....

Although the potato raised farm production overall, its greater benefit was to make that production more reliable. Before S. tuberosum, summer was usually a hungry time, with stored grain supplies running low before the fall harvest. Potatoes, which mature in as little as three months, could be planted in April and dug up during the thin months of July and August. And because they were gathered early, they were unlikely to be affected by an unseasonable fall—the kind of weather that ruined wheat harvests. In war-torn areas, potatoes could be left in the ground for months, making them harder to steal by foraging soldiers. (Armies in those days did not march with rations but took their food, usually by force, from local farmers.) Young’s interview subjects used most of their potatoes for animal feed. In bad years, they had been forced to choose whether to feed their animals or themselves. Now they didn’t have to make the choice.

The economist Adam Smith, writing a few years after Young, was equally taken with the potato. He was impressed to see that the Irish remained exceptionally healthy despite eating little else: “The chairmen, porters, and coal-heavers in London, and those unfortunate women who live by prostitution—the strongest men and the most beautiful women perhaps in the British dominions—are said to be, the greater part of them, from the lowest rank of people in Ireland, who are generally fed with this root.” Today we know why: the potato can better sustain life than any other food when eaten as the sole item of diet. It has all essential nutrients except vitamins A and D, which can be supplied by milk; the diet of the Irish poor in Smith’s day consisted largely of potatoes and milk. And Ireland was full of poor folk; England had conquered it in the seventeenth century and seized much of the best land for its own citizens. Many of the Irish were forced to become sharecroppers, paid for their work by being allowed to farm little scraps of wet land for themselves. Because little but potatoes could thrive in this stingy soil, Ireland’s sharecroppers were among Europe’s most impoverished people. Yet they were also among its most well nourished, because they ate potatoes. Smith drew out the logical consequences: if potatoes ever became, “like rice in some rice countries, the common and favourite vegetable food of the people,” he wrote, “the same quantity of cultivated land would maintain a much greater number of people.” Ineluctably, Smith believed, “Population would increase.”
« Last Edit: January 16, 2020, 08:32:29 AM by gmalivuk »
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As for the number of famines, biweekly is of course an exaggeration (not least because usually famines would be reckoned annually, based on the success of a harvest), but the point remains that famines were far more common across the region before they adopted maize and potatoes.

Edit: A bit later in that book are sections on maize and potatoes more specifically.

The importance of the potato to the history of (especially northern) Europe is among historians probably one of the least controversial claims made in this thread, after statements of basic fact like, "The Spanish had steel swords," and, "Tenochtitlan fell in 1521."
« Last Edit: January 16, 2020, 08:13:55 AM by gmalivuk »
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Offline CarbShark

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As for the number of famines, biweekly is of course an exaggeration (not least because usually famines would be reckoned annually, based on the success of a harvest), but the point remains that famines were far more common across the region before they adopted maize and potatoes.

Edit: A bit later in that book are sections on maize and potatoes more specifically.

The importance of the potato to the history of (especially northern) Europe is among historians probably one of the least controversial claims made in this thread, after statements of basic fact like, "The Spanish had steel swords," and, "Tenochtitlan fell in 1521."

It wasn't just the crops themselves, but the native technologies developed to handle the crops. Corn (maize), especially, beans, potatoes and few other New World crops can be preserved and can last years in storage without refrigeration.
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I'm not a doctor, I'm just someone who has done a ton of research into diet and nutrition.

Offline Shibboleth

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I have to admit that I am not knowledgeable in this area but Europe certainly had wheat and rice which could be stored along with things like carrots and parsnips. I think a huge problem in Europe is that regions tended to grow one main type of crop so you had famines if that type of crop got sick. France may have stayed a true monarchy for a much longer period of time had there not been bread famines.
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Europe probably could have kept slogging along without total collapse through those regular famines (and the epidemics that often followed), but definitely wouldn't have prospered in subsequent centuries the way it did thanks to the end of those shortages.

Famines were common in the pre-modern era, and are not synonymous with societal collapses.

As I read about the history of Sweden in the relevant time, History of Sweden (800–1521) and History of Sweden (1523–1611), the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica doesn't even surface, and had no direct relevance at the time either, much less staving off an imminent societal collapse. Potatoes came here in the 17th century, and were not widely consumed until later.

Undoubtedly a similar history is true of many other European countries. In the early 16th century, the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica was not a predominant concern for all of Europe.

It is true however that potatoes are very nutritious, and it was a real benefit for Europeans that they could be produced and widely consumed here. However, the absence of potatoes doesn't equal societal collapse.

As it happens, famines took place in Mesoamerica prior to 1492 as well. See this list, and I don't think that list is exhaustive.

Between years 800-1000 CE we read:

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Severe drought killed millions of Maya people due to famine and thirst and initiated a cascade of internal collapses that destroyed their civilization

In 1441 CE, we read:

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Famine in Mayapan

In 1450–1454 CE, we read:

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Famine in the Aztec Empire, interpreted as the gods' need for sacrifices.
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Offline bachfiend

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I have to admit that I am not knowledgeable in this area but Europe certainly had wheat and rice which could be stored along with things like carrots and parsnips. I think a huge problem in Europe is that regions tended to grow one main type of crop so you had famines if that type of crop got sick. France may have stayed a true monarchy for a much longer period of time had there not been bread famines.

The causes of the French Revolution in 1789 are complex, not just confined to Marie Antoinette’s ‘let them eat cake,’ in response to the wheat shortage causing bread riots.

I’m not certain how having diversified crops would have prevented a famine, if the famine was caused by increased cooling as part of the Little Ice Age.  The eruption of Laki in Iceland in 1783 has been suggested as one of the causes of the French Revolution:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laki#Consequences_in_Europe

since it preceded many years of very turbulent weather in France.
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Online gmalivuk

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Europe probably could have kept slogging along without total collapse through those regular famines (and the epidemics that often followed), but definitely wouldn't have prospered in subsequent centuries the way it did thanks to the end of those shortages.

Famines were common in the pre-modern era, and are not synonymous with societal collapses.

As I read about the history of Sweden in the relevant time, History of Sweden (800–1521) and History of Sweden (1523–1611), the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica doesn't even surface, and had no direct relevance at the time either, much less staving off an imminent societal collapse. Potatoes came here in the 17th century, and were not widely consumed until later.

Undoubtedly a similar history is true of many other European countries. In the early 16th century, the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica was not a predominant concern for all of Europe.

It is true however that potatoes are very nutritious, and it was a real benefit for Europeans that they could be produced and widely consumed here. However, the absence of potatoes doesn't equal societal collapse.
Why are you replying to my post about how Europe probably wouldn't have collapsed...by pointing out that Europe probably wasn't about to collapse?

Also, I'm aware of when potatoes were adopted in different places. It's largely after that time that famines dropped to near zero.

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As it happens, famines took place in Mesoamerica prior to 1492 as well.
Yes, and? Does pointing out that American crops largely ended famine in Europe somehow imply that I think famine was impossible with American crops?

(Also it's worth noting that the ones you highlighted were all in areas that primarily grew corn, not potatoes.)

I’m not certain how having diversified crops would have prevented a famine, if the famine was caused by increased cooling as part of the Little Ice Age.
You're not sure how a crop cultivated in the high Andes could have fared better in unexpectedly cold weather?

In the potato section of the book I linked to earlier, Braudel describes France as "particularly backward in this respect" when talking about the later spread of the staple to some areas. Its cultivation was outlawed from 1748 to 1772 (the Paris Faculty of Medicine declared it edible that year mostly thanks to the efforts of Antoine-Augustin Parmentier). According to that Wikipedia article, "The first step in the acceptance of the potato in French society was a year of bad harvests, 1785, when the scorned potatoes staved off famine in the north of France."

You'll also note that the list of famines Quetzalcoatl posted includes only one in Iceland and one in France attributable to Laki.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2020, 06:05:48 PM by gmalivuk »
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Offline bachfiend

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Europe probably could have kept slogging along without total collapse through those regular famines (and the epidemics that often followed), but definitely wouldn't have prospered in subsequent centuries the way it did thanks to the end of those shortages.

Famines were common in the pre-modern era, and are not synonymous with societal collapses.

As I read about the history of Sweden in the relevant time, History of Sweden (800–1521) and History of Sweden (1523–1611), the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica doesn't even surface, and had no direct relevance at the time either, much less staving off an imminent societal collapse. Potatoes came here in the 17th century, and were not widely consumed until later.

Undoubtedly a similar history is true of many other European countries. In the early 16th century, the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica was not a predominant concern for all of Europe.

It is true however that potatoes are very nutritious, and it was a real benefit for Europeans that they could be produced and widely consumed here. However, the absence of potatoes doesn't equal societal collapse.
Why are you replying to my post about how Europe probably wouldn't have collapsed...by pointing out that Europe probably wasn't about to collapse?

Also, I'm aware of when potatoes were adopted in different places. It's largely after that time that famines dropped to near zero.

Quote
As it happens, famines took place in Mesoamerica prior to 1492 as well.
Yes, and? Does pointing out that American crops largely ended famine in Europe somehow imply that I think famine was impossible with American crops?

(Also it's worth noting that the ones you highlighted were all in areas that primarily grew corn, not potatoes.)

I’m not certain how having diversified crops would have prevented a famine, if the famine was caused by increased cooling as part of the Little Ice Age.
You're not sure how a crop cultivated in the high Andes could have fared better in unexpectedly cold weather?

In the potato section of the book I linked to earlier, Braudel describes France as "particularly backward in this respect" when talking about the later spread of the staple to some areas. Its cultivation was outlawed from 1748 to 1772 (the Paris Faculty of Medicine declared it edible that year mostly thanks to the efforts of Antoine-Augustin Parmentier). According to that Wikipedia article, "The first step in the acceptance of the potato in French society was a year of bad harvests, 1785, when the scorned potatoes staved off famine in the north of France."

You'll also note that the list of famines Quetzalcoatl posted includes only one in Iceland and one in France attributable to Laki.

It might be true about Parmentier, but the claim about the potato starving off the famine isn’t particularly well documented in the Wikipedia article:

https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/schlesinger-library/blog/celebrating-bastille-day-18th-century-french-culinary-books-schlesinger

The other two references are in French (which I can’t read).

Being dependent on a limited number of crops isn’t a good idea.  If the French had been as dependent on the potato as the Irish were in the 1840s, then an event such as the potato blight would have been just as disastrous.  ‘What if’ arguments are pointless.  ‘What if’ the French were widely growing potatoes is being answered in retrospective knowing what eventually happened.

The fact remains; climate change in the 1780s possibly led to the French Revolution.  There were also good harvests in the same period, which financially ruined many peasants, because the price they got for crops dropped so much.

I’ve fascinated by how often climate change so often causes collapse of civilisations or rises of others.  The current climate change due to global heating is of particular concern.
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Online gmalivuk

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It might be true about Parmentier, but the claim about the potato starving off the famine isn’t particularly well documented in the Wikipedia article:

https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/schlesinger-library/blog/celebrating-bastille-day-18th-century-french-culinary-books-schlesinger
That post says, "In the forward to the Traité, Parmentier notes the recent bad weather and mediocre harvests that had forced people to reconsider the potato—especially since the potato seemed to do well when grain harvests were bad."

Quote
Being dependent on a limited number of crops isn’t a good idea.
Right, so adding potatoes and corn to the mix of existing European grains is surely an improvement, no?

Quote
If the French had been as dependent on the potato as the Irish were in the 1840s, then an event such as the potato blight would have been just as disastrous.
That's less to do with being dependent on the potato than with being dependent on one specific variety of the potato.

And monoculture is something we still do now, to an even greater extent.

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‘What if’ the French were widely growing potatoes is being answered in retrospective knowing what eventually happened.
Knowing that most of Europe stopped having famines after that, except for one in Ireland because so many of them ate only potatoes, you mean? How do you suppose that fact answers the question?

According to Braudel France had 16 general famines in the 18th century, plus numerous ("hundreds and hundreds") local famines. Quetzal's Wikipedia list has zero for France in the 19th century.

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The fact remains; climate change in the 1780s possibly led to the French Revolution.  There were also good harvests in the same period, which financially ruined many peasants, because the price they got for crops dropped so much.
Abnormal weather was one factor that led to famines which in turn helped along the Revolution, but as I've been saying those famines were likely worse than they could have been had the French more readily adopted the potato when their neighbors did. (Else why didn't any other countries in the region have any notable famines around the same time?)
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Offline bachfiend

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It might be true about Parmentier, but the claim about the potato starving off the famine isn’t particularly well documented in the Wikipedia article:

https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/schlesinger-library/blog/celebrating-bastille-day-18th-century-french-culinary-books-schlesinger
That post says, "In the forward to the Traité, Parmentier notes the recent bad weather and mediocre harvests that had forced people to reconsider the potato—especially since the potato seemed to do well when grain harvests were bad."

Quote
Being dependent on a limited number of crops isn’t a good idea.
Right, so adding potatoes and corn to the mix of existing European grains is surely an improvement, no?

Quote
If the French had been as dependent on the potato as the Irish were in the 1840s, then an event such as the potato blight would have been just as disastrous.
That's less to do with being dependent on the potato than with being dependent on one specific variety of the potato.

And monoculture is something we still do now, to an even greater extent.

Quote
‘What if’ the French were widely growing potatoes is being answered in retrospective knowing what eventually happened.
Knowing that most of Europe stopped having famines after that, except for one in Ireland because so many of them ate only potatoes, you mean? How do you suppose that fact answers the question?

According to Braudel France had 16 general famines in the 18th century, plus numerous ("hundreds and hundreds") local famines. Quetzal's Wikipedia list has zero for France in the 19th century.

Quote
The fact remains; climate change in the 1780s possibly led to the French Revolution.  There were also good harvests in the same period, which financially ruined many peasants, because the price they got for crops dropped so much.
Abnormal weather was one factor that led to famines which in turn helped along the Revolution, but as I've been saying those famines were likely worse than they could have been had the French more readily adopted the potato when their neighbors did. (Else why didn't any other countries in the region have any notable famines around the same time?)

Because other surrounding countries weren’t affected by the climate change in France as much?  The eruption of Tambora in 1815 caused severe climate change, with famine in some countries and not in others depending on the vagaries of weather and prevailing winds.  It’s been suggested that Tambora contributed to Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo:

https://phys.org/news/2018-08-napoleon-defeat-waterloo-indonesian-volcanic.html

If growing potatoes prevented famine, then why didn’t it prevent famine in other countries?  The famine in Ireland in 1817 (a precursor to the Great Potato Famine) occurred at a time when the potato was a staple food.

It’s complex.  If you’re dependent on one food, then other foods become less common and less able to serve as a backstop.  Obviously.
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Online gmalivuk

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If growing potatoes prevented famine, then why didn’t it prevent famine in other countries?  The famine in Ireland in 1817 (a precursor to the Great Potato Famine) occurred at a time when the potato was a staple food.
It did prevent famine in other countries. Other countries went from dozens of general and possibly hundreds of local famines every century, to a handful at most. The potato largely ended famines in Europe.

And it allowed the population of Ireland to triple from the mid-18th to the mid-19th century. As horrific as the potato blight was, population-wise it cut back at most 20% of the increase attributable primarily to potatoes.

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It’s complex.  If you’re dependent on one food, then other foods become less common and less able to serve as a backstop.  Obviously.
Yes, and as I said the Irish were particularly dependent on the potato (as many as 40% ate no other solid food regularly), so obviously they'd be hit particularly hard by a potato disease. But I wasn't extolling the benefits of becoming exclusively dependent on (monocultured) potatoes, I was talking about adding them to the diet.

Did Europeans in general add it to their agriculture in the most beneficial way possible across the board? No, evidently not. But they nevertheless did add it, and that did have massive effects on the frequency of famines and the rate of population growth.

You seem to be pointing out the downsides of what happened in an attempt to contradict the facts of what did, in fact, happen.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2020, 09:10:55 PM by gmalivuk »
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Offline John Albert

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This is another biased source that puts way too much emphasis on weapons, ignoring the fact that there were altogether three battles, that the Spanish were a tiny minority of their own army and that they were thoroughly beaten in one of those three battles and had serious losses in the other two.

Which specific "battles" are you referring to? There were a lot more than 3 battles in the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica. The Spanish conquered 3 major empires and fought several battles in each war.


Weapons really didn't matter all that much, but since that is the only thing they were good at

The only thing they were good at? You're doing ideological cartwheels and backflips to avoid reality. 

First of all, it's not just about the weapons. Steelmaking is a technology far more advanced than stone-tipped wooden spears, clubs and arrows. The Spanish had far more advanced metalworking technology. They also had more advanced navigation, seafaring, more advanced economic and organizational skills, and more advanced animal husbandry culture. 

Second, if the Spanish technological advantage was of little consequence, then why didn't all those disparate enemies of the Aztecs rise up and overthrow them on their own?


this is what is being emphasised because the only explanation for what happened is European (White) supremacy.

It's really tedious how you always have to twist every disagreement around in such a way to accuse the other person of being a Nazi. It makes you look like a raging monomaniac. And it convinces nobody.

Nobody here is making a white supremacist argument that the European people themselves were more advanced or more highly evolved. What we're discussing is the relative overall technological achievements of the two cultures.


the term "stone age technology". This is a purely archaeological term used as a dating frame of reference. However, he uses it as a measure of advancement

I was talking specifically about the technological level of pre-Colombian Mesoamerican toolmaking. Materials science and tool engineering is a pretty good indicator of technological development across all cultures.


I wonder if he'd say that a contemporary surgeon using an obsidian-bladed scalpel is using a less advanced technology than his colleagues who use steel tools

It depends on the technological level at which the scalpel was made, because that would determine its effectiveness as a tool. A stainless steel scalpel, for example, is engineered to a high degree of precision and is capable of being sterilized in an autoclave. If I showed up for surgery and the surgeon's tray was covered with flint-chipped flake knives and hand axes, I'd get the hell out of there. 

You seem to think that "technology" refers only to artifacts as separate from techniques and science. In reality the two are closely interrelated. Tools are developed for the purpose of specific techniques, and techniques are determined by sophistication and form factor of the available tools.


Furthermore, the term carries a clear European bias as it is based on the specific history of material culture that Europe belongs to

Nope, that is incorrect. "Stone age," "Bronze Age," "Iron Age" is not a dating system that only refers to Europe.

Different cultures reach the different "Ages" at different times. For example, China's Bronze Age began around 3000 BCE, whereas the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal) entered the Bronze Age in about 1800 BCE, the British Isles entered their Bronze Age in about 1300 BCE, and Japan entered its Bronze Age in only about 300 BCE. 


Misusing it as an anthropological term is a great tool to disparage the "savages" so that you assert your dominance and justify their oppression and colonisation

Spare me the self-righteous lectures. They're ill-informed, presumptuous, and super tedious.


The use of stone instead of metal is not a sign of advancement (modern anthropology also rejects the idea that there is a linear progress of technology and especially that it has to use Europe as the central frame of reference) it is a sign of different needs and resources.

Please show evidence to support this claim.


Steel is more durable but it is also more labour- and resource-intensive to produce and this trade-off may not be worth it to societies that don't have a specific need and are already prospering without this technology. This does not make them less advanced, only different.

It is less advanced, from a technological perspective. That's not to say the people are less advanced, only that their technology is. If they make do with less advanced technology, that's fine. But let's not pretend stone-tipped arrows are equally as advanced as arrows tipped with triple-bladed heads made of hardened carbide stainless steel.


it can't really be said the Europe was all that better than anyone else despite having some technologies that had an advantage in a direct competition.

Good. Because nobody in this thread has been making that argument.

All the rest of that stuff you said was beating on the same "White supremacist" strawman.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2020, 07:06:11 AM by John Albert »

Online gmalivuk

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If you cared to pay attention to what you're replying to, you'd see that Rai's initial "3 battles" claim referred to the article you quoted about Cortez and the Aztecs. More recently I specifically enumerated those battles in reference to another article that Quetzalcoatl posted.

Also you keep claiming that you're supporting the consensus, but have yet to provide any evidence for that claim. Likewise your claim that the three-age system is uncontroversially appropriate across all cultures, with the same lack of evidence.

Edit:
Quote
It is less advanced, from a technological perspective. That's not to say the people are less advanced, only that their technology is.
There's still no unambiguous linear "technological perspective" on advancement, just like there hasn't been any of the other times you've said that, and you still haven't explained what other sense of "less advanced" there might be other than a technological one.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2020, 06:04:12 PM by gmalivuk »
The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better...is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.